The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: Executive Director Letters

April 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Clarity of Purpose

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Lockwood_KarenIn “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder introduces us to the aspiring new doctor who grew up in a family that lives in a bus and on a ramshackle boat. The family could afford that residential style, and played and worked with a somewhat bizarre optimism. They firmly believed the reality that their lives were meaningful and normal enough. Paul Farmer goes on to use his instinct to excel by pointing it toward Haiti. The story is now paused at the election of Aristide following the fall of Papa and Baby Doc, Farmer, a PhD anthropologist and top MD grad of Harvard, has already built a center of medical help and community in the heights of Haiti’s central plateau. He and two others had founded Partners in Health to raise private funds for this effort.

I clipped this line to share with you. They talked late into the nights.

Some things were plenty black and white, they told each other — “areas of moral clarity,” which they called AMC’s. These were situations, rare in the world, where what ought to be done seemed perfectly clear. But the doing was always complicated, always difficult. They often talked about those difficulties. How Paul and Jim should balance work for PIH with going to school and getting their degrees.

I feel their pain, NITA has great AMC’s to combine.  Doing them at once seems complicated. Choices must be made. Resources must be increased. Yet our purpose must always remain clear.

It is perfectly clear to us that every client in civil and criminal arenas alike needs and deserves highly skilled advocates; the company faced by unfair competition needs a lawyer always ready to go to court; the accused need excellent defenders and fair accomplished prosecutors, the individual and family know skilled advocacy when they see it. It is obvious that an economy of skewed incentives and uneven access to capital makes a more polarized continuum between those who have and those who need help to find a civil lawyer. It is a truism that justice if enabled stabilizes new governments and nations under stress. Law students and professors need us as much as ever, in the most relevant ways. Corporate law departments have a huge voice in demanding and partnering to create better advocates.

NITA, founded on the vision of advancing excellent advocacy throughout the nation’s courts and hearing rooms, has the responsibility to flex and grow to aim clearly for our purpose. We watch carefully the systemic changes in legal education, private practice, constitutional and statutory assurances of fairness in the criminal law realm, and global political conflict and violence.

Everywhere, lawyers remain assets for the voiceless. Courage feeding fair and balanced governments. Talent for holding steady the prism of fairness through which conflict resolution systems must be seen. (Call me if examples of this truth do not immediately come to mind — Egypt, Selma, Kosovo, Ferguson, Death Row ….)

As we seek to bring NITA learning to the best productive mix of these lawyer sectors in the US and outside its borders, we constantly balance. We measure who we reach. We know all lawyers trained in our public and custom programs must will bring their best trial skills to serve their clients. They will advance their skills for a lifetime with NITA-confidence. They will have wide influence throughout their careers, and will move among practice sectors. We know those who are in public service need training now. We understand the imperative of training for criminal advocates on both sides. We seek relationships with organizations having nuanced understanding of nations engaged in reforms, because they can help NITA target, aim, and provide intensely relevant advocacy training in key global regions.

Our purpose is clear. Our choices are many. We need you, all of you and your friends. Know that our work is motivated by this clarity of purpose, focused yet broad in potential.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

March 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA Is Unique, Once Again

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Lockwood_KarenLet’s talk about webinars.

You and I see many invitations to commercial webinars in our inbox.  Some introduce a topic you know little about.  Some give you an introduction to a person or company.  Many are fairly elementary, such as “how to use twitter as a marketing tool.” Others are orientations – like our lawyers’ old friend,  AmJur, purposed to enumerate a large number of topics within a broad field.  An example would be “educating participants about the various types and stages of whistle-blower claims” (in 90 minutes).  In general most webinars that pop into your inbox are tangentially related to something in your zone of interests.  What do you do?  Save them for after-hours to delete or sample.

They are ubiquitous.

Ours are different. Here at NITA our method is to help lawyers in direct and immediate ways, giving you a menu of choices. So too for our NITA webcasts.

  • We run live webcasts. Monthly.
  • They are audio-visual.  You watch the speaker deliver, or be interviewed – on camera in real time.
  • You also watch our speaker’s slides at the same time as you see her gesturing, smiling, exclaiming, or showing you the point.
  • Our topics are small slices of trial advocacy. They sit alongside – but are different from – the advocacy skills you practice in our in-person programs.
  • Our speakers are masters of their topic.  You will see some NITA faculty plus guest speakers who know well the thin-slice of the advocacy topic at hand.
  • And you can ask the speaker questions in real time.

If you miss a live webcast, you will find it recorded (free these days) and ready for you to view online, on demand, just as it was broadcast live. (Sorry you can’t ask the speaker questions unless you go live.)

These are not elementary or orienting types of teaching. Like all NITA offerings, we create them as another way to learn.  Some examples? You can focus for the hour on a detailed lecture and practitioner’s advice about Rule 30(b)(6) depositions, presented by the authors of our NITA’s master book on the subject – The Effective Deposition.  You can engage in a field of expertise through our studio interview of one of the nation’s foremost forensic psychiatrists, thinking through your work with such experts in consulting and trial settings.

Whatever topic you choose from our menu of prior NITA webcasts, you will engage specifically, deeply, and clearly.

Oh yes, we do end each NITA webcast with a reminder of how our live programs help you.  In our live programs, YOU are doing the speaking, gesturing, smiling, and showing as if to the judge or jury.  Guided, critiqued, taught, reinforced. You grow.

Don’t let this knowledge escape your attention.

  • Live NITA webcasts? Watch your email or check the upcoming schedule online.
  • Miss a NITA webcasts that you would like?  View it on demand, recorded live, audio-visual, slides, and all.

Visit NITA’s studio71 library now.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

February 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Watch Us in 2015!

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Lockwood_KarenI emerge from the annual meeting of NITA’s Program Directors to write to you. What a show!

You see, NITA’s founders emerged from that first meeting over 40 years ago and started being program directors. They created the special ways that NITA teaches skills. They developed it over years of programs, working together to constantly verify, refine, and supplement their NITA-unique methods and content. NITA thus earned its legacy of collaboration. It has owned the fruits of that early collaboration ever since, with strong allegiance to our mission.

NITA is larger now, yes. Yet that legacy is as clear to us as ever.

Indeed, we carry forward that same warmth, excitement, and collaboration, vigilant to refine, and expand our method, and support our legacy’s growth. Thanks to this unique collaboration and trust among NITA program directors, NITA’s excellence in teaching trial advocacy skills is unlike anything you will find elsewhere.

This year, the program directors’ meeting focused on how we best bring the benefit of over 40 years of designing our NITA method of teaching to lawyers who may not know our breadth. We focused on how live advocacy takes its shape in courtrooms and meeting rooms across the country. We focused on how learning takes effect through live in-person programs. We shared insights on how the learner can profit from other learning tools presented online. And we talked in detail about the needs of various law practice specialties when their lawyers stand up to take on live advocacy.

Thank you to the program directors. Your warmth with each other is palpable — true to the trial lawyer‘s style of ideas, counter-ideas, stories, suggestions and counter-suggestions . Your focus on NITA’s unique station in the loose landscape of lawyer training is laser-sharp, true and “NITA-blue.”

We will continue to take our warmth, our spirit of collaboration and critique, and our support out to lawyers across the country. Lawyers who want to freshen, hone, or start learning stand-up live advocacy skills. We will find lawyers who may not even know how much they will learn with us. 2015 will be another very important year.

Saluting you,

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

January 2015 Executive Director’s Letter. Fulfilling Their Expectations:  Our Memories, Broader Than Sorrow

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Lockwood_Karen

The best of what we learn about teaching and justice, of how we work intensely together to learn, of how we seek to instill the true advocacy that redeems justice . . . these things we carry forward from those who went first. They donated the foundation of our teaching, and the spirit and brilliance of our collaboration.  Whether founder, designer, creator, faculty, trustee, or author, each person’s excellence in working with the NITA community is still the essence that contributes to NITA result. 

At this start of the year, when we are fresh with news of recent losses, we do well to reflect on the way each person contributed. They knew what they brought. Their vision in contributing was to make a difference then and after they were gone. Yes, they had expectations of the everlasting value of their NITA work. 

As we work within the NITA community, as we welcome our compatriots and revel in gathering each time a faculty is assembled, let us remember this:  We are entrusted with fulfilling not only our goals but also the expectations of these great lawyer/teachers who went before us. They expected that newcomers would bring their genuine best, spar and give, create and critique, build bonds, and cultivate friendships.  We do that still, and will into the future.

This NITA community is about honoring those we work with today for the very reason that we work together.  It is about the larger vision of justice, which would be neither a formed goal nor an achievable mission without our community of sharing.

In tribute to the collective that is NITA, I draw from our NITA Community pages the names of those who have appeared there over the past year. I would prefer to honor all whom we’ve lost. Our lesson is drawn well, however, from this sampling. Look at the diversity of traits remembered throughout these pages about each of these NITA members at the time of their passing. Take them each as a reverent reflection. Take them together, and we know what they expect of us.

Carry it on.   Carry it on.  

M.J. Tocce February 15, 2014
“her life’s mission to work with women working to achieve success”

 

Eddie Ohlbaum March 13, 2014
“playfulness, the kind that creates collegial learning”

 

Keith Roberts March 15, 2014
“the fine art of gentlemanly advocacy in the courtroom”

 

Myles Malman April 21, 2014
“resolve, determination and contagious sense of humor as he prosecuted his cases”

 

Daniel Grove July 21, 2014
“free penchant for arguing and teasing, for quick funny references, for repartee, and for being one’s self”

 

Jim Carrigan August 11, 2014
“his insight into justice, what justice requires, and how much injustice exists that is to be addressed and reversed”

 

JoAnn Harris October 30, 2014
“talent, leadership, and strong resolve to do the right  things the right way”
“contributions that accentuated her keen eye for service to the public interest in justice”

 

Bill Keating January 1, 2015
“trial skills, humor, and humanity that made him both dangerous in the courtroom and a joy in the classroom”

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

December 2014 Executive Director’s Letter: A Meditation at Year’s End

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Lockwood_KarenThis month closes a good year at NITA. Our programs filled. Our publications moved into the e-book space. Our website brings you fresh views and more information every month. Our webcasts attract hundreds of viewers live and remain on line for you if you missed them. Our blog, The Legal Advocate, brings you articles on litigation insights that help show off our faculty’s expertise, news about our NITA community, and more — even the occasional movie review.

And so we turn our attention to building programs for public service lawyers. We serve these lawyer groups in special ways. They have limited means due to their client base, and they serve clients who otherwise would have no lawyer amid extenuating circumstances.  They come from legal aid practices, advocacy agencies for children, groups helping those in poverty or underserved populations, tribal justice systems, criminal practice by public defenders, under budgeted state and local prosecutor offices, and other special groups.

(1)  Our first question in planning this project was one for NITA’s Board:  can we fund public service programs in advance of the upcoming year? Having a budget stated in advance, which we know is available, gives us the power to build programs we have always wanted to do. 

The Board responded with an astounding surprise – they committed a percentage of reserves to be spent each year for the NITA public service mission. This nest egg is seed money. With it we will be building new opportunities for service.

(2)  Next, the second question is for you. As you find the Board’s leadership inspiring, will you join NITA’s effort to expand the budget needed to create and provide programs uniquely suited to public service audiences?  The Board knew, when it partially funded a public service budget that others would follow its commitment.   

This is the time of year to ask, and so we do.  We need you to remember the transformative power of NITA live programs. We need you to help others to experience that transformation. They need your gift to NITA’s Public Service Program Fund.  Remember, we need these funds to initiate 2015-16 programs that purposely target certain public service practices that need more of NITA than they can get. We will find them. Please click here to make your gift.

As you give, consider a gift in memory of JoAnn Harris to the public service fund.. JoAnn regarded her work to teach NITA in Indian country as one of the most significant accomplishments of her life.

Equally you may consider a give in memory of Jim Carrigan. If you wish to support more scholarships – which always are underfunded — you may consider the Jim and Beverly Carrigan Scholarship Fund (touching Colorado and area lawyers). 

We are grateful for all that you, our NITA community members, do to support NITA’s public interest and scholarship projects.  

May you have a blessed holiday season, and a peaceful 2015.  Thank you for your NITA work, and your NITA generosity.  

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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