The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: Executive Director Letters

March 2016 Executive Director’s Letter: Advice and Democracy

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Lockwood_KarenAs ED, I am dedicated, as is NITA, to non-partisan activity and viewpoints. This letter is apolitical. It supports our stable, three-branch form of government.

I imagine that you, as am I, are meditating almost involuntarily on the following question:

“How did we get here?”

. . . to the Senate’s possible no-action in its constitutional role to “advise and consent” after a president nominates a new Supreme Court justice.

. . . to a presidential election cycle where the sparring seems abstract and “values” oriented, with not much of a nod at good governance or even the principles of a balanced, three-branch, democratic government.

. . . to the U.S. courts facing assumptions from the citizenry that judges vote their politics, whereas in truth judges and Justices apply the rule of law and guard the fact finding with rules of due process?

As I listen to the news, I reflexively return to two words. Education and Internet.

Education is good. We need more of it on the subject of how our democracy works. How else can citizens equip themselves to resist explosive campaigning about vague values du jour and exaggerated promises of surprising actions? A decade ago, Justices Breyer, Souter, and O’Connor mutually raised the alarm on the need for citizen education. They fanned out to urge lawyers to be ambassadors for the U.S. Constitution. The ABA joined them, too, with its citizen education initiatives in public schools. Lawyer groups did as well. But that education requires sustained energy, evaluation, and focus. Our national focus diverted to the recession, budgets tightened, and we swung our energy in different directions.

The Internet is a tool. But it tempts us to shop for opinions of others in places where the readers are already in agreement without a contrary voice. It teaches young learners to seek information in sound bites and summaries that do not require deep thinking. It creates seeming consensus without personal interaction by those who think they agree, and worse yet, without consideration of those who might disagree. So we create a national habit of yelling at those who do not consent to agree with our unexamined “values.” We argue to win, not to learn or to listen or to move forward.

My letter today is a call to the legal community to reach out and teach our communities about our democracy. To show that its three branches are given allocated responsibilities, each having checks and balances on the other two. If we allow each branch to work rather than halting its process, accusing it of imagined wrongs, or resorting to angry rhetoric, the government can be trusted to govern effectively.

How did we get here? I don’t really care.

How do we draw back from it? The lawyers across the state bars can make a difference. We have a few months left. Let’s do it.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

February 2016 Executive Director’s Letter. Where In The World . . . and Why?

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Lockwood_KarenLast weekend I attended an address by the President of the World Bank Group, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, to my law school in Washington DC. Regarding NITA’s international work, I posed the following question to him:

  • NITA is a national organization that serves justice in adversarial systems by teaching advocacy skills.
  • We have a small but impactful global involvement, limited by funding, where we teach advocacy skills to those who invite us in areas of the world where the justice system is in transformation. We choose by these criteria, believing that our work will count.
  • Unlike the distribution of malaria drugs that were proven effective in a poverty-stricken society in Haiti, we are not “delivering” a “product” for consumption. Rather we can be said to be exporting a system – one that we believe in, but ours nevertheless.
  • How would folks at the World Bank, and Dr. Kim with his experience in Haiti alongside Dr. Paul Farmer, suggest we think about our role, our instruction, and our boldness in supporting adversarial systems applied to non-western cultures?

Dr. Kim’s answer is piercing in its acknowledgement of widely diverse cultures, and inspiring in its recognition of the importance of our work. His points included these:

  • Proving, as Dr. Farmer has, that something which “cannot be done” in fact can be done, is critical. (See Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder)
  • The question remaining at the end of the day is how to use systems and governance in order to sustain such developments within a culture or nation.
  • The governance is what must create and retain systems, intact.
  • A huge part of development is going to happen in the private sector. That investment will not take root without people, governments, and systems that can be trusted.
  • “So, I would say, thank you so much for doing that and thank you so much for going out and pursuing governance” systems that bring justice.
  • No matter where we are we’ll see poor people who have smart phones and know how others live.
  • This hot line of transparency, from people taking pictures and transparent communications, will force the governments toward increasing services for people, attending to human rights, and putting systems in place.
  • Everyone has good laws; it is about implementation, and that is up to the government, a system, and a just system that people will believe in.

And that is why NITA works hard to do international work that is mission-driven, that helps nations to sustain their own justice systems, and that believes in the trustworthiness of due process gained adversarial justice systems.

I write because it is worth the moment to say this. Where do we go in the World, and Why we are there? Both have been answered when NITA goes overseas.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

January 2016 Executive Director’s Letter. Thinking Outside the Box

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Lockwood_KarenWhat Does It Take To Stand Out From The Rest?

Every lawyer asks this stand-out question – sometimes musing while brushing teeth, or maybe staying quiet when watching others talk about their stand-out moments.

Talent is one thing. Put it in a category with knowledge, skill, and diligence.

Lawyers are aware if they are good at what is necessary: good work product; conscientious ethical practices; friendly attitudes toward peers; courtesy to superiors; pitches to work with the powerful partner or supervisor; notes and calls to potential clients.

Yet these measures are “the price of admission.”

So what makes the lawyer a stand-out success?

edJan2016

 

Having insights,

Sharing insights,

Being different, remarkable,

Being courageous.

Being right.

 

 

How can lawyers work up to being “courageous” andright”? Strategic opportunities to develop courage are few when your days are filled with client matters, and the senior lawyers in your office are equally booked for billable work. Where can you find safe places to try to fail, and to fail without risk?

Coaching in the office? Time and the private practice business model permits very little time for that. At the beginning of my career in a preeminent large firm, I could go to the assigning lawyer, could tag along to a court appearance (the firm organized these tag-alongs for associate groups), and could ask the partner to “tag along” with me so that I had a coach as I ventured into my first depositions (expert depositions, at that). Our billable hour requirement — a new idea then — was 1750.

Coaching from an outsider? That works for business development processes. But it is impossible to find tag-along coaching, even if it were affordable.

No, you must look for places of low risk for high-risk experiments on yourself. Here are the requirements of that place: you can perform experimentally; you know your experiment will fail because you are courageous enough to try; the failure teaches you something new; and you will repeat the experiment until you succeed.

Since you are taking that level of risk, you must look for the place that gives you the best teaching and coaching you can get. No pain without gain!

I have that place. It is NITA – a huge experiment by you on yourself.

We are safe. We are masters at teaching advocacy skills. We are coaches. We demand you repeat. We show you what to change.

And you come away with courage that you will always carry with you.

If you don’t know why NITA programs are the answer, please call me. I have the passion, the experience and the history. More, I have your best interests foremost in mind.

Think . . . Never again musing only into your mirror. Never again hiding in silence while others seem to gain courage. Join in with the wise learning at NITA: “trying to fail in a new skill, with friends.”

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

December 2015 Executive Director’s Letter. NITA in 2016: Strong, Growing, Touching Needs In Even More Ways

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Lockwood_KarenIt has been a great year. Next year, 2016, you will see NITA rolling out what we have been building here at “home.” In our work over these three years, we involved program directors, trustees, authors and faculty leaders in creative collaboration aiming at our growth.

I sounded two themes when I began my service as NITA’s Executive Director. In 2013, I envisioned what our greatest strengths are, how to cultivate them to serve the legal practice, and where we may focus to continue adapting in the coming years.

The strengths? Content. It is “king.” Quality. We own it in our field.

Serving the legal practice? We want to know everything about today’s challenges for practitioners. NITA does more than teach. We study the decade’s changes in the structure of law practice, including market concentration producing large global firms or vierens, the need for mobility that individual lawyers feel, the evolution in client service expectations, legal fee increases, the consequent demand for ever higher productivity, the resulting puzzle of how new lawyers are to gain their experience, and more. We study the fact of a reduced ratio of cases reaching trial and the often ignored fact of expanding numbers of disputes filed in court, in agencies, or in arbitration. We observe the spill-over pressures on underserved clients, the importance of lawyers in medium and small practices. There is more to say . . . perhaps in a later ED Letter.

The coming years? “Change” itself is changing. Change occurs more rapidly, and creates new forces more often. We stay abreast of the changes. Our most important question is this: “What do lawyers in this cauldron of competitive change and noble service need?”

Our answer is this. Every lawyer — from the most senior, the mid-level partner, the new partner, the senior associate, the corporate counsel, the public’s lawyer and the public service one – needs (1) deeply familiar advocacy skills, (2) that are freshened before calling upon them, (3) that are relevant to their practice now and as it changes. They need this for two reasons: first, their individual stature and mobility; second, their ability to “nail it” rather than being stale when entering a trial or hearing. They need it for their client. And they need it for their career.

Content: we have worked with the program directors and other NITA faculty leaders and authors to identify program topics that you need, always focusing on advocacy skills.

Quality: we have focused on the excellence that we have, the excellence that we demand of our faculty, and the excellence that we groom and keep fresh.

Watch us in 2016. Better yet, join us in 2016. Whether you are a lawyer wanting to freshen your skills or up your game, whether you are a client that is as passionate as we are about making your lawyers the best, or whether you are an accomplished trial lawyer who would like to try your hand at teaching with NITA, call me.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

November 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Taking Stock

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Lockwood_KarenDear Friends,

Thanksgiving, which you and I will prepare for over this weekend, is the time when my thoughts turn to my own year-end gratitude and the reflection of taking stock. I imagine you are the same.

What do you take stock of? Here are some of my zones of interest:

  • Accomplishing our mission at NITA
  • Accomplishing my goals—within my profession, and with my family and friends
  • Balancing my net effect on the larger world, in ideas, commitment, contributions
  • Oh yes, and then there is balancing for ending the tax year, for the full use of flexible spending accounts, for engagement with friends, and for the hours I devoted to exercise versus the hours slipping away to . . . well, to whatever

In this time, I think about the organizations that I support with my talent and tribute.

When you take stock of your donations of talent and tribute, please think of NITA. NITA remains vibrant and impactful—zero-balance-budget and all—because of these two types of donations. When you attend NITA programs, you are taught through the volunteered talent of terrific faculty members. When you attend NITA on a scholarship, or in a public service program, you are learning because of dollars contributed to us to make it possible for us to support you.

Whether you usually contribute talent or tribute, I hope you will place NITA at the top of you giving list in 2015. We need your dollars in order to carry our missions forward.

And that you place us at the top of your list for 2016—start planning your participation in NITA now!

Please call me if you would like to talk. You will enjoy reading through The NITA Foundation section of our website for more information on the purposes of our funds. You can also catch up on what The NITA Foundation is doing by reading the latest edition of it’s newsletter, Giving Voice. Please let us know if you wish to have more information. I look forward to talking to you.

Please join those who give loyally every year. I look forward to writing my personal thank-you letter to you.

Join us. We are growing. We make a difference. NITA needs you in order to continue our organization’s huge contribution of talent and tribute.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

NITA’s team of practicing lawyers, professors and judges from around the nation dedicates its efforts to the training and development of skilled and ethical legal advocates to improve the adversarial justice system. NITA's Goals are to:
  • Promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy.
  • Train and mentor lawyers to be competent and ethical advocates in pursuit of justice.
  • Develop and teach trial advocacy skills to support and promote the effective and fair administration of justice.
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