The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: NITA Community

Press Release: NITA Wins International Award From ALCEA

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Tel.: 303.953.6828
Date: 8/2/18

National Institute for Trial Advocacy Wins International Award

The Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA) has awarded the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) one of only 16 annual awards granted to competitors representing more than 300 organizations.

An Award for Professional Excellence was given to NITA for its “Office of the Public Defender Lagos State Ministry of Justice Expert Witness Program” in the Best Public Interest category.

Last November, NITA sent a team of American lawyers, judges, and professors to spend one week training 70 lawyers in Nigeria, where the country recently opened its first forensics lab. The primary focus of the NITA program was forensic science and how to prepare, present, and cross-examine expert witnesses, which filled a critical knowledge gap where there was significant need for both resources and training. Due to the recent introduction of the forensics facility in Nigeria, lawyers in the Office of the Public Defender in Lagos State were inexperienced in the fundamentals of incorporating this resource into their legal practice. They learned about pathology, firearms identification, documents, and fingerprinting, as well as how to handle expert witnesses in the courtroom. Detailed information on the program is available here.

ACLEA members are professionals in the fields of continuing legal education and legal publishing. Its annual ACLEA’s Best Awards are highly competitive and winning projects represent the highest level of achievement for the staff and volunteers involved.

NITA is the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training. A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in Boulder, Colorado, NITA’s sole mission since 1971 has been to improve the quality of advocacy in our nation’s courtrooms.

ACLEA formally presented the award to NITA at the Annual Meeting of ACLEA in Portland, Oregon, on July 31, 2018.

July Volunteer Faculty Spotlight

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As part of NITA’s efforts to recognize our vast volunteer community, we have initiated a monthly volunteer faculty spotlight. Recommendations come from our programs department staff, who work closely with our volunteers on our public, public service, and custom programs. NITA is pleased to announce Mark Olson as our July Volunteer Faculty Spotlight. Here are just some of the comments our staff used to describe Mark’s work with NITA:

He has made his time available to us every month and has also taken on multiple online programs in a month. Each time he does a program, he comes in with smiles and does a wonderful job getting the participants engaged. He is very informative and gives them great critiques. He really tries to get to know who each attorney is by looking them up prior to the program. He really goes above and beyond.

When asked about how he was introduced to NITA, why he continues to teach for us and a little background of his teaching career, he had this to say:

In the 1990s, our Firm, Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly, retained NITA to assist in training our litigation associates in the area of Trial Skills. When I became the Litigation Associate Training Director in the early 2000s, I again reached out to NITA for assistance, and we successfully presented several training programs for our associates. During those sessions, I met Professor John Sonsteng, who asked me to be part of his NITA program at Mitchell Hamline Law School.

I have a passion for working with young and inexperienced lawyers to help them develop trial and litigation skills so that they can be more confident and so that they are equipped to effectively represent their clients. Because I was “thrown in the deep end of the pool” as a young associate and had to “sink or swim,” I vowed that if I ever had the chance to work with young lawyers to help them develop skills so they would be able to navigate the deep end of the pool, I would contribute whatever I could to achieve that goal.

I was an adjunct professor at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota Law School in the late 1980s where I taught Appellate Advocacy. Later, in the mid-2000s, I began teaching Trial Advocacy and Advanced Advocacy classes at the U’s Law School and also at William Mitchell Law School. In 2006, a couple of NITA Program Directors―John Sonsteng, Jay Leach, and Henry Brown―took a chance and invited a “rookie” NITA instructor to be part of their Trial Skills programs in San Francisco and St. Paul―and, as they say, “the rest is history.” Through their mentoring and tutelage (and patience), I have been blessed to be part of the NITA family for the past twelve years. I have taught public programs in Trial Skills, Deposition Skills, and Legal Strategy around the country and also several custom programs at law firms in the same areas. In 2014, I started teaching the Online Deposition Skills program and continue to do that today.

We want to thank Mark for his continued passion and support of NITA’s mission. With 800+ faculty members and over 20,000 hours volunteered each year, we could not do what we do without people like Mark Olson.

Welcome the Newest NITA Advocates

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NITA is proud to announce the 2018 2nd quarter recipients of the Advocate Designation. These designations are awarded to a person who has taken a well-rounded set of courses, proving they are serious about trial advocacy.

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  • Jeffrey Dornbos | Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge
  • Andrew A. Shank | Eller & Detrich PC
  • Katherine Zimmerman | Womble Bond Dickinson
  • Ignacio Garcia | BGFA
  • Marilu Merzthal Shigyo | Rubio Leguia Normand SCRL
  • Christopher M Humes | Brownstein Hyatt et al

If you have any questions on how you can receive the NITA Advocate or NITA Master Advocate Designation, please review the information on our Advocate Designations page, or email

NITA Past Board Members Recognized at The American Law Institute

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NITA Past Board Members Joseph R. Bankoff and Louise A. LaMothe

NITA would like to congratulate Past Board Members Joseph R. Bankoff and Louise A. LaMothe who became Life Members at The American Law Institute (ALI) during their 95th Annual Meeting. The ALI is the nation’s premier law reform organization which is limited to 3,000 members –  elected from judges, law professors, and practitioners from throughout the United States and abroad.

An ALI Life Member is someone who has been a member for 25 years. LaMothe and Bankoff’s class was selected in 1993 and celebrated its 25th year during the Annual Meeting. According to LaMothe, “It’s been a great honor to participate in the ALI’s many contributions to the law.”

LaMothe and Bankoff both served on the NITA Board for many years and we congratulate them on this amazing achievement and for their dedication to advocacy.

Breaking: SCOTUS Justice Kennedy Announces Retirement

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Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court of the United States this morning.

Since his appointment to the high court bench in 1988 by President Reagan, Justice Kennedy has frequently served as the crucial swing vote in decisions. His retirement is predicted to recast the leanings of the majority.

Please see the New York Times for more information as this story develops.

[Photo credit: By Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Anthony Kennedy – The Oyez Project) [Public domain].]

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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