The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: Executive Director Letters

February 2017 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA’s Stellar Publications Department!

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Last month I started a series of features on NITA’s staff. We introduce them by department. Publications is up this month – and boy are they up! Writers love to write. I hope you enjoy these greetings from the six peoples who handle all of our casefiles, treatises, special releases, and online offerings.

Marsi Buckmelter

Senior Legal Editor
I primarily work as an editor managing book projects, but also do a fair bit of writing (marketing copy, newsletters, NITA Foundation grant applications). That includes my weekly post on NITA’s blog, The Legal Advocate, which includes an interview series called Asked and Answered. In a completely different direction, though, I must say my favorite work week of the year is assisting my dear friends Michael Johnson and Joleen Youngers with on-site support at the Northwest Trial Skills Program in Seattle (which is where I live). The program is like a family reunion every year, and I find meaning as an editor to watch one of “my” NITA case files given life at a program when attendees blossom in their skills.

When you think of American democracy, the essence of it is the law. Whatever its flaws in execution may be, the theoretical foundation of the American judicial system is the envy of the free world and our Rule of Law a model for every emerging democracy on earth. The work that judges, and the trial lawyers who appear before them, do is the very deed of democracy in action, forming what I call “the thin black line” of civilization that separates us from chaos. Maybe I’m just a great big nerd or am overly verklempt, but I believe our work matters. The law is the most essential work of a democracy, and each tiny bit we do at NITA—whether we are a faculty member, author, trustee, or employee—inches us closer, one tender soul at a time, to a more perfect union.

Virginia Judd

Legal Editor
Like most of the Publications staff, I work remotely—I live in Cleveland, Ohio, where we will win the World Series this year! I work ¾ time for NITA and maintain a small consumer bankruptcy and family law practice. Client work keeps me in touch with the issues of attorneys, which in turn helps me to edit case files with a view toward realistic courtroom situations and practical outcomes.

This year, much of my work is focused on updating different states’ “Rules of Evidence with Objections” books. These handbooks provide quick reference for trial attorneys to the evidence issues. Whether they wish to make or respond to an objection, these books serve as guides. Because several states have made major changes to their evidence rules, it is essential that we update these books in order to provide optimal reference for our clients. That project is well underway.

Jennifer Schneider

Director of Publications Digital Content
As Director of Publishing and Digital Content, my job is to ensure the successful planning and implementation of both tactical and strategic goals for all of publications and online content, as well as to lead my team to innovate and execute.

I love working for an organization with strong ties to its core mission and history, which also embraces new ideas and technologies, all to ensure lawyers are the best possible advocates for their clients.

Eric Sorensen

Managing Editor
My first role in the Publications Department is to assure that NITA’s pubs are meeting the needs of its clients – including those in public and public service programs, custom programs, law schools, and individual practitioners. Part of this involves working with authors to develop useful, readable, attractive, and correct books and case files. Another part involves work with authors, PDs, and others to create varieties of tailored materials such as special and advanced printings or new concepts like the Law School Experiential Learning Packet. A second aspect of my job is to help the Director of Publications with administrative and research projects.

I see NITA as a vibrant community of like-minded individuals who work together in various ways to better the quality of lawyering. The value of this community is of course the skills development itself. But beyond that, the community’s dedication to improving the profession unites them; and the faculty’s lawyers model good lawyering and professionalism for those learning the skills. This will be my tenth year with NITA, and I have seen how NITA has adapted to, and met, the many challenges the legal profession has faced. NITA has adapted also to the rapidly and radically changing social and technological landscape. It remains at the forefront of integrating such innovations into its tried-and-true learn-by-doing method. NITA’s future is one that I am excited to be a part of.

Michelle Windsor

Publications Product Manager
As the Publications Product Manager I get to be involved with our products at many different stages. I see authors and content at the early stages, starting with the product proposal, then I follow them through the publishing process all the way to final publication. I provide access to NITA products through our licensing system, and additionally I consult with law school professors and firm training managers to help them find the products that will meet their needs.

The practical nature, along with the quality, of NITA products and programs is what has made NITA invaluable to attorneys and students. I know as NITA staff we are all committed to this invaluableness as we also work to provide material and training in new ways.

Charlie Woodcock

Media Specialist
I run NITA’s studio where we produce live webcasts plus educational and promotional content for all aspects of NITA’s mission. In addition, I manage NITA’s video library content and user experience, and create and edit new material to add to NITA’s ever growing library.

With over 45 years of setting the standard in legal education, NITA is currently reaching more attorneys than ever before, not only with its learning-by-doing in-person programs, but also in offering so many mediums to access top quality legal education. These include publications, an extensive video library, and streaming live presentations. In staying modern, but keeping roots firm in the quality experience; it’s an exciting time to be part of NITA’s mission.

Please say “thanks” the next time you talk to these Publications team members. I am proud of them.

And thank YOU.

Go, NITA!

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

January 2017 Executive Director’s Letter: Introducing our Professional Staff – Stellar Program Department!

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Meet our staff members! While NITA is the faculty and author network that brings you learn-by-doing programs and materials, NITA’s professional staff in Boulder is the engine, director, and glue that makes it all possible. We coordinate, expand, envision, and deliver highest quality and efficient support of NITA’s mission. We direct our amazing network of lawyers, as they teach in the unique NITA way.

Over the next few months, I will be introducing you to NITA’s staff. This month, I bring you greetings from our Programs Department. As you work with them, you will admire their dedication – just hear what they have to say!

Alicia Branch

Program Specialist II
My eagerness to further NITA’s Mission engages my full support as I administer my programs, and “lend a hand” in the department’s other projects and goals.
I see NITA’s mission, creating the best advocates for our legal system, to be a constantly evolving goal. As we set the level of excellence in legal advocacy training, I draw great satisfaction from knowing that it means so much to so many people.

Mark Caldwell

Resource Director
Given my familiarity with program content, case files, materials, and other faculty resources, I consult with staff to help them support programs that succeed, and help support program directors.
NITA’s leadership in improving the quality of trial practice is unquestioned. Our philosophy of inclusion, regardless of the lawyer’s position in a case, means that NITA constantly strives to improve the quality of representation for all, including the underserved client base.

Katie Grosso

Senior Program Specialist
I contribute through pitching in on some of the more strategic aspects of our department, along with administering programs.
NITA for me is a job, a mission, and a vision. What makes it important personally is the big, awesome family; I value my NITA friendships inside and out, and enjoy seeing the program participants bond. As we face a changing market, it is our relationships and dedication to mission that carries us into the future.

Cindy Knaisch

Senior Program Specialist
In addition to running my programs, I support the team from my customer service and IT background, helping enhance the client experience as well as our staff’s efficiency.
I’m proud to work at NITA. We truly help empower attorneys to better serve clients, including the underserved. I picture my work as an integral part of that mission, as NITA continues to grow as the premier CLE provider in the legal profession.

Christine McHugh

Program Specialist I
I work to be a fun, awesome, sassy member of Programs, engaging with my team and my faculty, and working to create a well-oiled machine as we organize our programs.
I personally feel the most important role we have here is providing excellent customer service to our participants. It’s a pleasure coming to NITA each and every morning!

Michelle Rogness

Director of Programs
As the lead director of this amazing Program Department, I coordinate our goals and our work to provide consistently excellent programs for both public and private programs.
NITA provides chances for lawyers to get on their feet and learn. We have the teachers and the method to help advocates speak for others. We are aiming to provide relevant training for a changing playing field in all areas of advocacy.

Donielle Swires

Program Specialist I
I add to the group’s success by working to run each of my programs smoothly, and helping other specialists on the team.
NITA is a great opportunity for lawyers to build new skills and strengthen techniques they have used in the past. I feel NITA increases their comfort going into a courtroom. We at NITA expand into the future as we perfect what we do by working together.

As ED, I am proud of these Programs team members. Please say “thanks” the next time you talk to them!

And thank YOU.

Go, NITA!

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

December 2016 Executive Director’s Letter: Celebrating NITA At Year’s End

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Lockwood_KarenTogether, we have done amazing things. NITA continues to grow in influence, creativity, engagement with trial lawyers and advocates across the generations, and faculty excellence.

In this Holiday Season, my message is one of joy and thanks. Read both parts of this letter. First, the bullets of thanks. Second, the arrows for action.

First, my personal reflections in this season:

  • Thanks for all the faculty, authors, studio71 stars, and clients both individuals and custom groups. Thanks to all of you across the nation who are more connected and active than ever.
  • Joy for all the program directors, team leaders, and assistant team leaders who step up to leading programs and written content with their individual stamp of quality, true to what NITA is known for. We collectively rock!
  • Anticipation for the creative teams that are building to start 2017 with searingly relevant and effective new content in publications, programs, webcasts, articles and blogs.
  • Excitement for the creativity and progress that will mark 2017. We will organize a whole new collaborative focus on NITA–quality content of all types.

So, you have ideas, I know you. Call me! 303-953-6801 / klockwood@nita.org.

Second, the engine that unifies all of these efforts:

We are the NITA Network. Not an association, no members, no formal applications with criteria. Rather, an enthused network of individual lawyers who are jazzed by the vision of future courtrooms, where all lawyers at the bar (or in any forum) perform advocacy effectively, efficiently, and ethically.

How do we succeed in keeping this network success going today in our 45th year, and forward through the next 45?

Our Staff!! You will read about them in my first few posts of 2017. You know that our NITA Network hits its mark because we the lawyers are good. And we are prepared. Who prepares and assures that we look good? Well, we hit our marks, build our programs, and sustain our energy thanks to our staff. They are thrilled with NITA’s mission. They are overjoyed when they connect with each of you. And they rejoice in each victory of a good program well-planned and beautifully taught. In a well-planned publication or studio performance, beautifully presented and timely. In the union of donors who energize our public service mission.

We don’t thank them enough – we can’t! I myself can’t do it enough either, and I reside here with many of them.

So please do two things for me, starting early and throughout 2017:

→ Thank every staff member at every contact moment you have, personally and as a colleague.
→ Read about each of our staff members in my next few posts beginning January 19. I will introduce to each staff member as a person, and each NITA department. You will learn how they accomplish the magic together. Hint – it is teaming with you.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! I extend my wishes to each of you for a reverent and joyful Holiday of your own following. Thank you to all of you, our individual and diverse friends.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

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

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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