The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: Executive Director Letters

From the Director’s Desk: August 2018

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A year ago, I took the month of August off of work: a month of no emails and barely a phone. During that month, I spent a week road-tripping out west with my teenage son Cole, went solo hiking in Switzerland, celebrated my great-aunt’s 90th birthday in Canada, and enjoyed some solitude in the mountains. I’d like to share some of my reflections from that month that, while personal, can and should be brought to our business world.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Spending time with a teenager helps you lighten up, helps you see the world through their eyes.

Take chances. As I followed behind Cole on a beautiful mountain bike ride in Moab, I realized that we all take different routes, have different levels of risk taking, and experience different levels of fear. The ride was about trying―and maybe even failing, as demonstrated by falling twice, getting back up, laughing at ourselves, and continuing onward to the next challenge.

Listen to your inner voice. The nice hotel we found online turned out to be not nice at all. It didn’t take long to listen to my inner voice to say, “No way. We are not staying here.”

Be an open-minded listener and ask better questions. There will be times we don’t want to hear what is being said, but if we listen, we may learn something new or see the situation in a different light.

Stop second-guessing yourself. In Moab, I was second-guessing my decision to go to Dead Horse State Park as we were driving there, thinking, “Why go the extra 50 miles, round trip, when there is perfectly good mountain biking right here with no extra driving?” I’ll tell you why. Because it’s worth it. The views, the trail, the experience with Cole. It’s a little piece of heaven, just like my new favorite place Torrey, Utah, right at Capital Reed National Park. We stayed in a teepee, and everything about this place makes it worth the five-hour drive there and the really long drive home the next day. And yet even a year later, as I was out driving earlier today, I was thinking about that experience and how it was so expensive and out of the way and was it really worth it? And again, the answer is absolutely, without a doubt. So sit back and enjoy the ride, and stop stressing about whether it’s the right decision.

Say “thank you” more often. Thank you!

You can’t control everything. Both of my flights to Switzerland were delayed. Getting worked up won’t change anything, so sit back and enjoy the ride. (We might have a theme here.)

Quiet space is essential for thinking. There is so much noise all around us. Escape it―even if only for a few minutes or an hour to allow your brain to rest, to daydream, to let thoughts in and out without too much analysis . . . or maybe it’s the perfect time and space to analysis a difficult situation or new idea. Quiet space, aaahhhhhh!

Honesty is the best policy. Switzerland has self-serve cheese shops, “honesty pay” gift shops. Trust people to make the right choice, and they usually will.

Don’t panic.I had anxiety about hiking my first big pass, being by myself, the weight of my backpack, missing the trains. So talk things through with the people who matter most.

Shed a tear. Acknowledge your anxiety instead of ignoring it. Work through it, not around it. Embrace it. Grow!

Cherish each other and our time together. Cole had moments of being the typical 13-year old-whiner, but he also held my hand, shared a bed with me, shared his food and drink with me, and said “thank you” a million times during our trip. I will miss these days. Relationships matter.

Connection is critical to our well-being. Our ability to relate, have empathy, feel validated, and be understood are absolutely necessary.

Throughout the West, Switzerland, Canada, and Colorado, I wrote a daily takeaway during my work-free August last year. I tried to always relate it back to both my personal and professional roles. I’m sure you have your own list of things to live by. These are just a few of mine.

Wendy's Signature

 

 

 

Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

Oh, and P.S. Eat often, and always get gas before you need it.

From the Director’s Desk: July 2018

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We are a multi-generational workplace organization. There are five generations in the workplace today and NITA encompasses all of them. From our Board, faculty, staff, and customers, our ability to interact, value, and respect each other is imperative to accomplishing our mission. For a refresher, here is the breakdown:

  • Traditionalists—born before 1946
  • Baby Boomers—born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X—born between 1965 and 1979
  • Generation Y or Millennials—born between 1980 and 1999
  • Generation Z—born after 2000

The beauty of NITA is that we are better with all these voices at the table. We are better able to connect when we see someone like us who has achieved what we seek. We are better able to see things from another perspective when we are at the same table. We are better able to come up with creative ideas by joining together our brainpower. Even when we are challenged by closed-mindedness, fear, stubbornness, or the like, we are made better by working through the difficulties together, even if it causes frustration, anger, or annoyance. This is a great form of growth.

This summer, I’ve been reading through four decades’ worth of NITA history. (Some documents even date back to 1971.) A rich history, full of inspiring thought leaders, aimed at working together to find a way to make better trial attorneys. And what has struck me time and time again as I’ve been leafing through these files is that NITA’s mission, our purpose and vision for doing what we do (and have done for forty-seven years), is the same and it’s only the caretakers of that vision―in the form of our leadership, our staff and Board members, our Program Directors, faculty, and authors―that have changed throughout the decades of NITA’s existence.

It really touched me to see so much evidence of those who’ve played their part in transmitting the essence of what NITA is all about and transferring their actual, hands-on knowledge of how to function and thrive as an organization. (Talk about “learning by doing”!) In this context, I find myself humbled to be a part of that history, entrusted―just as every single one of us is―in carrying on with the work of our founders. So, no matter whether you’re a Baby Boomer or a Millennial, a Traditionalist or a Gen X-er or Z-er, I’m grateful we’re together as we each play our own part in NITA’s history.

Wendy's Signature

 

 

 

Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk – June 2018

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Inspiration comes in many forms. Maybe it’s watching the sunrise from the top of a mountain that you just climbed, maybe it’s learning something new from someone you admire, or maybe it’s watching an incredible lawyer cross-examine an expert witness.

Last week I was inspired when I read an interview with Jim Sandman, Executive Director for the Legal Services Corporation and one of our Keynotes at our upcoming conference, NITAVision 2018: Inspiring Justice Together. He talked about his life in big law and his transition to public service; really about being your authentic self.

Jim shared a story about attending an annual pro bono breakfast of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The speaker was Michelle Rhee, who had recently become chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. She talked about her need for corporate counsel. Jim had a great observation about this: “I also knew what she meant when she said she was surrounded by lawyers who only know how to say no—the kind of lawyer who spots problems but doesn’t do anything to solve them. What she was saying was, ‘I need a thought partner who can help me get where I’m trying to go.’”

Isn’t that exactly what we’ve been building here at NITA? Thought partners? Yes it is. We want you to be our thought partners to discuss issues, solve problems, learn, grow, and adapt as a legal profession and as legal professionals.

Jim goes on to talk about the challenge to find the right combination of mission and job. “You can go to work for an organization that’s got a great mission, but in a job that doesn’t do anything for you, and you won’t be happy. You have to like what you’re doing day to day. It can be really hard to find that combination.”

People who experience NITA—whether teaching, participating in a course, donating to our foundation or writing a book—are changed; they are inspired. We are inspired every day at what our mighty non-profit accomplishes.

I hope you are as inspired by Jim’s interview as I am. I’m also excited at what we’ve put together at our upcoming summit. Come be inspired with us! NITAVision 2018: Inspiring Justice Together, September 16–18, 2018 in downtown Denver.



Wendy's Signature

 

 

 

Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk: May 2018

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I have an obsession with time. It is a fascinating thing―it breeds acknowledgement of things past, gives focus to things present, and instills a vision of things future. Time is a continuum. It can create a sense of accomplishment, or of laziness. It allows us to reflect on the impact of our activities as well as the people in our lives. So in that stream of thought, I’ve gone back in time a bit to review some important NITA history.

Last month, the board of directors for the International Society of Barristers (ISOB) invited me to speak at its annual conference. The ISOB has been a longtime donor and supporter of NITA training, with a similar mission and overlap in great leadership. Upon researching our history and partnership with the ISOB, I reflected on time.

Digging into the history of NITA has brought me the opportunity to learn about the many influencers who have guided and impacted our incredible organization―the great trial organizations like ISOB, IATL, ABA, AAJ (formerly ATLA), ACTL, and ABOTA, all who helped shaped who NITA is today. I’m inspired to read their mission statements to see how we fit together then and now. Has time divided us? Are we united in our efforts like we were in the early ’70s . . . and if the answer is no, then why? Over time, we change and adapt―yes, that’s true, we change with the times to adapt to technology or implement new learning techniques―but fundamentally, we remain loyal to who we were in the 1970s. And we were created to endure around a shared belief.

One thing I know for certain is that history + partnerships are a rich combination. Partnerships allow us to build trust, such that where we have a gap, our partner may be able to fill it and vice versa, or that we can mutually benefit from aligning on initiatives that forward both missions and causes. And therein lay the beauty of time: developing important relationships that endure.

I hope to continue to grow our relationships in the months and years to come. Thank you to all our partners, big and small, who help us forward our mission.

Wendy's Signature

 

 

 

Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk – April 2018

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The core values of an organization are the foundation on which we perform work and conduct ourselves. We have an entire universe of values, but some of them are so primary, so important to us, that throughout the changes in society, government, politics, and technology, they are still the core values we will abide by.

In an ever-changing world, core values are constant. Core values are not descriptions of the work we do or the strategies we employ to accomplish our mission. The values underlie our work, how we interact with each other, and which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission. The core values are the basic elements of how we go about our work. They are the practices we use (or should be using) every day in everything we do.

Like many great companies, such as Apple, Amazon, Disney, and Starbucks, NITA was built with a dream, at a kitchen table, with people. We’ve heard the saying “People are your most important asset!” Wrong! “The right people are your most important asset.” That is the magic of building and sustaining a great organization: the right people.

Over four decades, we’ve had the right people and the wrong people. Here is what the right people ―the type of people who excel here and the associated behaviors these people consistently possess―mean to us at NITA through exemplifying our five Core Values.

    • Respect: mindful manners, listens, open to ideas, willing to help, is responsible, accountable, authentic and honest
    • Integrity: takes ownership, committed to our mission, builds trust through follow through, true to your word
    • Flexibility: listen to feedback, overcomes new challenges on short notice, interested in finding a solution, not blaming, constant evaluation of processes, let go of ego or position for the greater good
    • Innovative: creative, challenges assumptions, encourage idea sharing, try new things, fail, try again, learn and grow from mistakes
    • Collaborate: solutions-oriented, a helpful resource, volunteers for projects

You have seen and will continue to see us incorporate the use of our five Core Values into daily interactions and decision making, as well as when we hire, promote, review, reward, and yes, even terminate.

These aren’t standards just for our staff. We hold all who work with NITA to these values. Let’s challenge ourselves and each other to exemplify our Core Values consistently, and to have them at the forefront of all our interactions, always.

Wendy's Signature

 

 

 

Wendy McCormack
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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