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Category Archives: Executive Director Letters

November 2016 Executive Director’s Letter: What Can A Lawyer Do For Democracy – when you want to be non-political?

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Lockwood_KarenThis is not about the 2016 presidential election, which is an act now done.

It is about the question, “What do we do now?”

We who are lawyers must use our knowledge and our experience about the U.S. Democracy to educate entire communities. Seems hopeless. But remember the Chautauqua movement? Like that, a movement is needed to spread the talent of listening and the courage of speaking across disagreements. Say, a Listening for Democracy movement.

1. Do voters understand our democracy? Do they know that the grand experiment of the U.S. Constitution has worked for 240 years because it has three branches, and is built on an educated body of “We the People”?

There is a broad lack of knowledge about this, and it directly affects our choices as citizens and voters. It is non-political, completely, to say that we must re-educate our entire nation of residents. Sandra Day O’Connor called this issue out even before she retired in 2006. She founded the important initiative of “iCivics” education for children and youth.

But we have eroded more quickly than expected toward a predominantly gut-level basis for exercising one’s vote, not interested in actual facts. We have isolated ourselves into narrow belief groups, unable to find, much less listen to, separate belief groups, as an unforeseen and harmful symptom of social media communication channels. We are a nation of separate belief groups, not of states. And we are in trouble.

2. How can lawyers prevent our society — local, regional, and national – from fracturing? Think of these forces to start with:

  1. Purely value-based truisms used to skip education and vote by “gut“;
  2. Caustic individualism that acts out of pure self-interest;
  3. Internet sanctums of values-based reference points that do not talk to each other, but evolve ever more extremely to a closed set of beliefs among narrow factions in the democracy;
  4. Use of the vote (or the appointment power) by a population (or an official) to elevate leaders mostly from within one faction who will hold excess power without balance;
  5. Like-breeds-like communities that grow more understanding of others when they are diverse (think high population regions) and more intolerant when they are less diverse. This is how the human brain processes what is normal versus what is frightening, and is called implicit bias;
  6. . . . (there is a lot more).

This list is frighteningly real. It needs a nationwide re-messaging. Our nation needs to re-learn how to listen without voicing disagreement. Those who know democracy as a governing system must teach how to debate while refining our disagreements. We must be sure to preserve our democracy. We will always be more diverse, and the internet will always drive toward isolation in beliefs.

Lawyers can teach this. For now I don’t know how to create energy or a process to start a “movement.”

At NITA we know that we learn new ways – in the courtroom or out – by practicing them. Desired habits of learning, and understanding through listening, grow as we model and practice them.

Reach out. Listen. Teach. Advocate listening. Build listening in your community. Write to me about how to start a movement. As officers of the courts, in our non-political selves, we must step up.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

October 2016 Executive Director’s Letter: I Want To Talk To You About Money

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Lockwood_KarenWhat I have to say is easily expressed, and I know you already understand its big impact on justice. We need more donations.

  • NITA contributes to public service lawyer training.
  • NITA also provides scholarships to lawyers in financial need for them to attend NITA programming.
  • These funds come from donations to our NITA Foundation and some grants.
  • Our board inspires further donations by allocating additional funds from NITA for its public service objectives.
  • All these gifts are inspiring.
  • But inspiration takes its meaning from the act of someone else who has also been inspired. When we see private, individual or family donation levels increase, we know we are reaching you, and that you are inspired.
  • I am not seeing it increase yet.
  • And so I wish to inspire further. If you are inclined but seek inspiration or information, please call me! 303-953-6801.

The need is as great as ever. We regularly must disappoint program applicants who clearly make a difference in practices serving people lacking access to Justice. Or who are in real sustained financial need. When we don’t have funds, we have to say “sorry” to scholarship applicants. Neither our program leaders nor our applicants like that. I don’t either.

Why don’t we have room? Because the allocation across programs of limited scholarship dollars does not spread far enough.

Now, you know me as a passionate, mission-oriented person. I am as true-NITA-blue as anyone. But I must say “no” to adding “just one more” scholarship applicant to “just this” program. I must give chances to applicants to all of our programs.

I also am a business person and a lawyer who staunchly defends NITA’s renown, its brand, it fiscal health, its future, and — more than anything — the NITA Network.

You are the NITA Network. Please join me. Go talk to friends who are not part of the NITA Network and tell them what you and we do! Donate regularly yourself, this year, or every month. Or calendar your commitment for every quarter. (It is easy to direct your donation online at: www.nita.org/Donate.) You have my promise that donations are treasured and directed wisely to further meet the demand.

We at NITA Central and across the NITA Network have so much else right. Help make us powerful enough to stop turning away scholarship applicants.

Thank you. Go NITA-Blue!

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

September 2016 Executive Director’s Letter: Turning the Focus Inside

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Lockwood_KarenQuite A Year . . . A September Snapshot

Reading back through my monthly letters to you this year, I note how actively they engage you and our world around us. They represent NITA’s leadership across the country.

Today I turn the lens around to talk a bit about the home front.

More than 1600 lawyers have already enrolled in our 2016 public regional programs – we organize these programs early and encourage enrollments far in advance to maximize your preparation. Get your spot here.

New program topics now appear steadily every year. Our new approach to creating exciting programs is underway. From our NITA Network of faculty, we select volunteers to work together with me in creating new programs. These trial advocacy teaching stars contribute their creativity, sweat equity, and NITA-expertise to produce new programs that will speak to your evolving needs. Again, stay tuned!

A year ago, we increased the strength of our outreach by appointing experienced NITA staffers as our three Client Relationship Managers. Wherever you live and work, you are in a region that has the special attention of one of these folks. Their purpose is to learn the particular approach of every firm, solo practitioner, agency, law school, and other law practice group in their region. Please reach out to them. You will find them by calling us – or email Wendy McCormack, Associate E.D. for Operations.

How about on-line learning? Many of our programs include on-line videos selected just for your program, and featuring our NITA faculty teaching core principles. You have them as you prepare to stand up and perform throughout the program itself.

How about “studio71”? Our webcasts are both in demand and on-demand! So far in 2016, we have registered 3200 learners to join the live webcasts. Indeed, this audience continues to grow so quickly that we are adding capacity to allow us to take even more than 250 live webcast attendees. What’s more you can view 68 past webinars on demand, on-line here. (But you get to ask questions when you are live!)

In each of these and many other ways, we have expanded and deepened NITA’s prowess over the last four years. While maintaining our busy program and publication schedules, we have worked behind the scenes to groom the talent and leadership, the creativity and innovation, the technology types and capacity, and above all the depth of our awareness of what you need. All of this – and the loyalty of our NITA Network of faculty – make us the place to be in trial advocacy. Our non-profit mission thrives. It does so thanks to a great concept 45 years ago, a very loyal excited Network, and a lot of diligent focus and growth. Thank you to every one of you – you know who you are

If you want to know who they are, join us! Call, write, or better yet, talk to a NITA faculty member in your region – you know who they are once you come to a program.

Best wishes for a stupendous 2016!

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

August 2016 Executive Director’s Letter: Counsel will take notice…Trial Bar’s Next Gen

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“The Court . . . will particularly welcome . . .” —Grooming the Trial Bar’s NextGen

U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued this simple notice in Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc., Dkt C 10-03561 N.D. Cal. (Nov. 6, 2015).

edAug1

 

Judge Alsup’s Notice speaks volumes in pointed terms:

  • The first sentence addresses the need. Disaggregated, its logic makes these points
    • Practitioners in court must have experience.
    • The next generation must learn by experience.
    • Their senior lawyers bear the obligation to train through experience.
    • Accomplished trial counsel must create in-court appearances by juniors.
    • The next generation needs opportunities from their very early years.
    • This applies even to lead counsel who may seem essential because of their renown (as can be inferred from the prominence of lead counsel in this case).
  • The second sentence addresses the hesitation:
    • Lest firms or lead counsel would avoid risk by turning (repeatedly) (only) to senior experience, comfort is offered: the Court will “particularly welcome” the junior lawyer to argue the motion.

Are you pondering this? Whether motions are the only place a court would welcome a junior who may fumble words or lack polish? Whether this case and this judge are unique? Whether lead counsel should wait for an order that puts out the welcome mat?

Don’t ponder. Lead.

Lead, with the secure knowledge that a firm lives by the promise of its future. A client invests its loyalty by the firm’s attention to its own future and to the experience built into lower billable rates.

Lead, knowing that the judiciary is taking us there and, really, it is not their job to make us do what we should do. See NextGen in Courtroom (seventeen federal district court judges have taken steps to remedy the problem; resolution pending for circuit-wide principle in Ninth Circuit to encourage orders and local rules on letting junior lawyer handle matters before the court).

I gained my own experience as lead counsel in my early years, yet I understand law firm pressures. As a partner for over twenty-three years in, respectively, a litigation boutique, a mid-size firm, and a global firm, I witnessed law firm economics transform. Thus, what I hope you will ponder is the structure and systems of the firm. We need to spread courtroom opportunities like fertilizer across the entire field of talent. Nearly every lawyer had wanted more experience in their earlier years, before they became young partners. It seems risky, yes, to ask seniors and stars to share when others will not be as polished. It is scary to bring in juniors knowing they may stumble or hesitate while forming their next sentence.

Don’t fear. Act.

Act, to provide opportunities that produce experience early and often. Start a series of discussions within your firm leading to mutual commitments to lead. In your own docket, find the opportunities for your juniors to star, and assign them. Coach the juniors. As they stand in court, sit by their side.
Act, to establish initiatives by your city and state bars so that even reluctant lead counsel will feel the ethic of sharing the courtroom—even if they yearn themselves for experiences once denied.

Act—at this precise juncture—by turning to NITA to help you get this done. When the judiciary rang the same bell forty-five years ago—a different time—NITA was founded for this precise mission. We do a great job. And we have adapted to the pressures of modern practice.

NITA is here for the lawyers who missed their big challenges eight or ten years ago. (It’s never too late.) NITA is here for the lawyers you need to groom for their first in-court challenge. NITA is here for beginners as well, and law students. NITA works for the more senior lawyers who have been out of court too long, or have a trial looming, or simply want to kick up their energy a notch.

How do you get lawyers ready for their in-court experience, at whatever level of the challenge? We partner with your firm’s own planning. We love serving you.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

July 2016 Executive Director’s Letter: What Can A Lawyer Do?

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Lockwood_KarenThe corners and boundaries of civilian violence are changing. I am going to talk about just one incident to illustrate.

Last night in Dallas, amid a peaceful demonstration against police shootings (largely by white officers), there was a sniper. He was African-American. He shot the police. He shot towards and at the largely black group marching for justice, and at an important voice against urban violence – Black Lives Matter. His shots hit their mark.

They cannot hit our freedom to assemble, or our non-violent demonstrations and marches. They must not. Nor can they hit the peaceful movement calling for just and appropriate police action. What is more, this unique Dallas event showed how good relationships among police officers and African Americans can look in urban centers. Police-Black Citizens strife was not at play in the demonstration itself. Yes, it was the topic. No, there was little of no such rivalry or aggression in Dallas demonstration. Quite the opposite, the officers dressed without riot gear, used and benefited from good credibility and relationships they have worked hard to develop, and worked as humans and professionals to maximize the peaceful (and effective) event.

So, the police officers are to pay? Of course not.

This cross-cutting of race, violence, protest, and freedom of speech exemplify a cauldron of actions based on automatic bias in our country. (You can think immediately of other examples in the political realm.) This event is unique. With that come an opportunity and a responsibility.

The opportunity is for us to use this moment to discuss bias and assumptions nationally. Indeed, shortly after the event and in the time since I wrote this blog, social media and new outlets have raised some of those issues. But we can hold the moment for longer than a news flash. We must combat the thinking that some groups in our diverse and heterogeneous society — a cultural trait which is our national treasure – are more privileged than others to hold sway, exert power, and predominate simply as a matter of privilege. No one group has a “propensity” to violence or a uniform viewpoint of what is right.

The responsibility accrues from our special status as members of the bar. The Dallas shootings situation deserves our reflection as lawyers. But we must act too, in our own cultures and communities. We swore to uphold our Constitution and to preserve and pursue justice. What inspiration for action do we gain from the Dallas events?

In the same vein, as a clergyman, Reverend Jeff Hood shared his insights that morning after. He was there in Dallas. In fact, he was one of the organizers of the day’s successful demonstration. At the front of the march, he was one of the first to hear the sniper’s shooting. He told NPR:

“Ultimately, I spent those three hours talking to people, asking the question, ‘Why? Why? Why is this happening?’ The only answer I know now, and the only answer I knew then, was turn to love, we’ve got to turn to love, we’ve got to stop shooting.” (Rev. Jeff Hood, Dallas, July 8, 2016, reported in CNN report 7-8-2016

As lawyers, and as citizens with that special knowledge and duty, what is it that lawyers are trained for, and good at, that our national society needs? You know how to answer. Share your answer with me and with each other

If clergy citizens can call for love and find ways to encourage it, lawyer citizens can call for what? How about personally acting locally and constantly to call for –

  • Interpersonal respect that fuels open discussions, listening skills, and cohesion necessary to draw out our differences tolerably (and long enough to think, rather than react with violence).
  • Self-awareness of hidden presumptions (starting with ourselves as examples).
  • Accountability for one’s beliefs and generalized judgments (in us as well as our candidates).
  • Real conversation among disparate groups (locally; just start conversing).
  • Teaching the Constitution, why it works, and how we risk sacrificing it (for all ages, and community-based).

These are things we lawyers are good at. Are we using those talents as opportunities?

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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