The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: Executive Director Letters

From the Director’s Desk: March 2018

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I had a 100-day plan: a platform, a place to start before undertaking the role of NITA’s fearless leader, a way to measure my first 100 days on the job. Want to know what was on my 100-day plan?

  • Writing and coordinating press releases and announcements.
  • Training and developing a transition schedule.
  • Conducting a New Leaders Assessment (you’re thinking, what the heck is that? It’s related to a 360 evaluation but more strategic) by seeking feedback from our Board, Program Directors, and staff; analyzing that feedback; and reporting back to those constituents the takeaways.
  • Developing an ED-specific communication strategy: still a work in progress and I want to make sure we get it right, for you. It includes items you’ve already seen—Facebook posts, ED letters, welcoming program participants at NITA HQ—but there is more, so much more, that I can and will do in my role. Stay tuned.
  • Completing 10-city listening tour. I gave myself 90 days to complete a 10-city listening tour. Between January and February, I spent 10 days traveling to those 10 cities to engage with our community (a mix of faculty, alumni, professional development personnel, partners, law professors, board and advisory council members). Now the work to summarize and identify themes from all the information I learned from guided discussions and exercises begins—all to take us into the April Board retreat as we continue our strategic planning.

With just a few date changes, the 100-day plan worked! The massive undertaking of a 10-city listening tour, assessment feedback and reporting out, training and transition, communication strategy, plus regular NITA operations, all happened as planned. I’ve spent a lot of time on messaging for staff to increase engagement, create a culture aligned with our core values, and push us to results-oriented thinking.

Developing my own communication strategy is still a work in progress. I am still thinking how to best connect with each of you on a more consistent basis. My overall goal remains to engage, align, inspire, and move people to act. That includes each of you.

Thank you to everyone who participated in a round table (we still have two scheduled), responded to my New Leaders Assessment, and called or emailed to tell me why NITA is important to you and how you view NITA’s future. I look forward to hearing from more of you as we move forward together.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk: February 2018

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I have a thirteen-year-old. Let me just repeat that for impact: I have a thirteen-year-old! Whether you have kids or not, we were all teenagers at some point. It’s an awkward time. Cole is a teenage boy in eighth grade and doesn’t know a life without a screen. Some call them iGen or Screenagers. I call him amazing. Yes, it’s true—he does most everything on his phone. Yet, he still has manners, he can talk to adults, and he does well in school.

I look at Cole and his classmates and think, “Someday, some of these kids will choose to be lawyers.” What does that world look like for them? What does law school look like in eight to ten years? What does continuing legal education look like post-law school in ten to fifteen years? How does NITA fit in?

First, as some of you have seen on social media (if you aren’t following NITA on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you are missing out), I’ve engaged in a ten-city listening tour to kick off my tenure to ask our community some of these questions. How do we futureproof NITA? I’m sitting down with 100 people, and I know that’s not nearly enough. There are thousands of you across the globe who know NITA and who have incredible ideas about the future. I want to hear from you. Help us futureproof the best, most admired, 47-year-old, learning-by-doing advocacy training organization on the planet.

The second BIG thing, because our community is so amazing and we don’t have one place for us to congregate to network and learn, is we created one and it’s called NITAVision. We have incredibly talented faculty, alumni, future alumni, professional development specialists, partners, and public service attorneys all over the country and each and every one of you should be here. Add your voice; come see what the NITA buzz is all about. NITAVision 2018: Inspiring Justice Together September 16–18, 2018, downtown Denver. NITAVision combines thought leadership as we explore and discuss the future of legal education, learning-by-doing skills tasters, and the importance of volunteerism into an impactful two-day event that you won’t want to miss. Register today.

Connect with us. Communicate with us. Collaborate with us. Change with us.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk: January 2018

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Welcome to 2018. As the new Executive Director, I am excited to lead NITA, and look forward to all that we can accomplish in our work together.

In my twelve years with NITA I have found myself consistently inspired by our organization’s ability to transform the careers, and lives of those in the legal profession, and in particular, to so many in the noble pursuit of justice.

In the last few years we have enriched our programming by adding supplemental content through new delivery methods, expanded our public service efforts around the globe, and continued to grow the network and sphere of NITA’s influence. In addition, we have continued to hold the trust and confidence of our clients; the firms, government agencies, and many other partner organizations who believe in and fund our work. We should be proud of these collective accomplishments. We also have work ahead.

Many have asked about my vision for NITA and I know there are questions about my own educational background. I intend to create the foundation and roadmap for a NITA as relevant to the next forty years of the legal profession as it was to the past forty. NITA is now poised to enter an era of new opportunity and growth. We come from a strong and impressive history, adhering to a teaching method that we know works, teaching confidence to the next generation of lawyers, and developing voices speaking meaningfully about NITA’s impact on their career. Building on that framework is the perfect place to begin NITA’s future; innovatation while adhering to our core values, and expanding our impact on the legal world while being true to our mission. I bring my own experience to NITA in business leadership and organizational development to guide us through our next chapter.

To do this effectively, I believe we must boldly embrace our heritage while developing and growing the platform, programming, and people that will carry us forward. In short, my focus will include three key things:

  • Evolving our programming to meet the changing marketplace for legal education;
  • Attracting and retaining talent and successfully managing transition planning;
  • Ensuring the heritage of the organization is sustained with the vision set for the future.

To begin the year and my tenure I am embarking on a multi-city Listening Tour.
I look forward to garnering important feedback on what the organization is doing well, what we can improve, and how we remain an invaluable resource to the profession. In April, the Board of Directors will convene to review the results of that tour and incorporate the learnings into our strategic planning.

I look forward to getting to know more of you in the weeks and months ahead and thank you, as always, for your ongoing support of NITA’s mission and work.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk: December 2017

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It’s no secret that our biggest news is around the leadership transition here at NITA. We honor Karen’s passion for advocacy and her “all for one, one for all,” team-player orientation as we welcomed in our new normal. The transition is now official, and I am so thrilled to wrap up this year and focus on 2018 and beyond. We spent much of the last six months making plans, training, and implementing for a number of position changes that you may not even realize happened. Jenn Schneider is now the Associate Executive Director, Operations and Eric Sorensen has stepped into NITA’s Director of Publications. In addition, Tom Hintz is now leading our Client Relations team. The outcome is that NITA’s staff and leadership is stronger than ever.

The end of the year is such a great time for reflection, but the truth is we reflect all year long. We continually evaluate and track how we measure up to the goals we set at the beginning of year. It’s been a busy year all around and while we accomplished a lot, I only have space for a few key highlights.

Programs: The heart and soul of NITA is our learning-by-doing programs. We held 218 training programs around the world and trained over 4,000 attorneys. We couldn’t have done that without our volunteer faculty, who donated over 22,000 hours. In fact, 15 faculty members each volunteered over 100 hours. Thank you for your contributions to NITA! See who they are here.

Foundation: We celebrate the core of who we are, which is promoting advocacy to all lawyers, far and wide, big firm or solo, public service or white collar. NITA designated over $300,000 to support public service training through awarding 117 scholarships to public programs and supporting 38 public service training programs for lawyers who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend a NITA program. For a taste of our activities, read about some of our programs here. And if that isn’t enough, we had an amazing response to the Vanderlaan Scholarship fundraising effort and raised nearly $100,000. The year isn’t up and every dollar counts. Donate here.

Pubs: Our publications catalog is robust and full of new titles. We finished updating the jurisdictional rules books, as well as new editions of Federal Rules of Evidence and Federal Rules of Evidence with Objections. We produced a new legal interviewing book and three new case files. Check out LexisNexis to purchase all our publications. We also welcomed Christine Vincent, the newest Legal Editor to join the NITA family. Christine brings years of experience in the legal publishing sphere gained at LexisNexis/Matthew Bender and Aspen Publishing, as well as running her own legal writing and editing business.

Our January 2018 letter will focus on initiatives we have planned and how, around the world, we want to be better engaged and have a larger reach in furthering NITA’s mission. But for now, we’re going to relish in our accomplishments this year. I hope you do the same.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

November 2017 Executive Director’s Letter: The Soul of NITA

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Lockwood_KarenSoul? “The” soul?

How does a network of 900 trial law faculty and authors, 35 staff and 23 Trustees have a Soul? NITA remains agnostic of faith as well as party and practice type. And to think of that argumentative trial law crowd – no multi-party advocacy could settle the essence of “a single soul.”

But you feel it, right? Lacking words, I named it “NITA-Love” when I interviewed with the Board five years ago. Everyone in the room got it. And no one needed to define it. And since, I have heard and read the phrase “NITA-Love.”

But you know what? The truth is this: NITA does have a soul. Every person with NITA has the same soul. It is this:


It is all giving. Of talent, imagination, time, funds, and . . . well, of loyalty and friendship. My proof point (the “QED”) is at the end – please read this straight through.

Faculty. They give because it thrills them to create transformative moments, every moment they can. They give from their deepest intuition, their highest level of experience. When they nail a perfect diagnosis of not only what but why to teach a particular person in a particular way on a particular skill, they swell with joy to see the result. We teach because we are hooked on the reality of making an immediate and permanent difference. Individually for each lawyer

Authors and Studio71 guests. They give original topics and comprehensive knowledge, NITA-like fresh ideas, imaginative case files. They know NITA owns, keeps, and cares for these works including how and when to go forward with updates, and will groom, trim, and tailor the collection for modern audiences and changed courtroom skills.  They are proud to join the continuum of talent behind the publications NITA uses to teach in and outside a classroom.

Staff members. I am proud of them and asked for their examples! Yes, they share the soul of NITA with faculty, authors, law firms, law schools, visible leaders and hidden gems around the country. But in their private lives, they are givers too. Just some of their Time, Talent and Tribute gifts are . . .
. . . Donating to organizations like Southern Poverty Law Center, the Manatee Foundation (yes, for one particular Manatee over the years with a visit to that ‘family member’ during a college tour), supporting a start-up helping families after the loss of a child, Nature Conservancy, Public Radio and Television, Planned Parenthood, hurricane emergency funds for Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, The Humane Society of Boulder County, the Denver Rescue Mission, small non-profit projects like Suzie’s Senior Dogs, and artists who are doing creative works, especially filmmakers, musicians,
. . . Volunteering individually or as a staff in community service, such as farm work at Three Leaf Farm (which grows organic foods for local restaurants), stuffed backpacks for new students at Crayons to Calculators, coaching school athletes in Ultlmate Frisbee and baseball, leading hockey leagues for elementary age players, coaching mock trials for high school, law school, and bar association students, and presenting ethics lectures to judicial groups, assembling donated items into toiletry bags for those without homes.
. . . Leading or advising organizations such as the non-profit Growing Home, (focusing on the whole family through services for “Parents as Teachers” (a food bank, mentoring, emergency shelter, and gifts and gatherings such as Thanksgiving baskets), the Nanda Center for International Law, the Colorado State Board of Education, a small mountain town’s water board, and Penguicon (an annual convention that provides an eclectic mix of computer education, life skills, and geeky fun.
. . . Plus, as one staffer wrote, “I work at NITA so I get to feel like I am giving back every day – very cool!”

Trustees. They too give Time, Talent and Tribute. Of course. Plenty! But I have not shared before how extensively they give of their personal donations as well as their time and guidance. Our Soul is deeply shared across the Board, and we rejoice in their collegiality and the contributions.

Friends and Family. Every one of the groups above, and others who care for NITA, double-down through donations to NITA’s Foundation. Each and every one of you gives priceless value to us, and your gifts too sustain our Public Service Program and scholarships. Our public service lawyer program line-up grows every year, and now attracts requests from more and more groups than ever. The immigration advocacy training programs exemplify our great pride in expanding public service offerings to serve client groups in great need. Scholarships to public programs also always challenge us – there is a great need. Thank you for every gift, of every size.

Here’s the Soul Thing!

In 2017, NITA-Love has taken a shape so distinctive that we can declare and trust the NITA Soul to be Giving. In a stunning call this summer, a group of veteran faculty quietly explained that together they had committed to a campaign to establish a memorial scholarship fund commemorating the life and talent of Bob Vanderlaan. The idea, the working plan, and the “go” button were all created outside staff’s usual work to shepherd gifts to our Foundation. It arose from NITA-Love. And it is about to achieve the ambitious campaign goal.

I am overjoyed. As a personal matter, I have to say that I tear-up writing this paragraph. Your bonds, your trust, your generosity and your commitment have strengthened NITA. It strikes my heart and I take in shorter breaths. Thank you.

As I step out of the Executive Director role and pass the beloved baton to Wendy, I know . . . I KNOW that NITA-Love is those things that we give. Of everything. And your spirit, loyalty, and pride are our most precious gifts. Please help us grow that Soul and trust it . . . I will be out there with you, doing the same as you do.

Thank you,




Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
Outgoing 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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