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Category Archives: NITA Notes

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.





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

NITA Movie Review: Give ‘Em the Old Razzle Dazzle

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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey

chicagoSince the Tonys were just recently awarded, I decided that this month I would review an Oscar-winning musical comedy about the law and lawyers, based on a not-very-well-received Broadway musical. Chicago won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2002 and on screen it’s a singing and dancing extravaganza. But because of its phenomenally cynical view of the law and lawyers, I find it more than a little depressing, too.

The film centers on three characters: Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger), Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta Jones) and their flamboyant lawyer, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere.) Roxie and Velma are aspiring entertainers, both are accused of murder, both are facing the death penalty – and both are guilty. It’s Flynn’s job to make sure that neither woman is convicted and he how does it makes up the core of the movie. Flynn uses flagrant pre-trial publicity, bombast, show biz tactics, sex, manufactured evidence and outright perjury dazzle.” All of this is done in a highly colorful, visually striking and richly entertaining way.

In addition to the three principal actors, the movie features a stellar supporting cast including Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly and Christine Baranski. Rob Marshall directed and the screenplay was by Bill Condon. Chicago’s direct ancestor was that Broadway play of the same name, but it also includes in its family tree two earlier Hollywood movies, Chicago (1927) and Roxie Hart (1942), which starred Ginger Rogers (but wasn’t a musical.) That 1927 film was based on a story by a Chicago crime reporter about two real murders that she’d covered.

Chicago was well-received by both audiences and critics. As noted, it won Best Picture in 2002. Zeta-Jones won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and there were also Oscars awarded for Best Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing and Sound Mixing. On top of that, Zellweger was nominated for Best Actress, Queen Latifah was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Reilly was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Marshall was nominated for Best Director, and there were additional nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. The movie made a pot-load of money worldwide for Miramax.

But for all the enjoyment I get watching Chicago, I still can’t help but feel uncomfortable about its take on the law and lawyers. Chicago plays to the worst aspects of the public’s distrust of lawyers and the legal system. There is no doubt that both Roxie and Velma are guilty and there is also no doubt that Flynn knows it. He will stoop to anything to win and it’s clear that winning is all that matters to him. A courtroom victory depends only on the entertainment value the lawyer and client can provide to the jury, portrayed as a bunch of idiots interested only in looking at Roxie’s legs.

At the start of her trial, Flynn explains all this to Roxie in the song that gave this review its title:

Give ’em the old Razzle Dazzle
Razzle dazzle ’em
Give ’em a show that’s so splendiferous
Row after row will grow vociferous
Give ’em the old flim flam flummox
Fool and fracture ’em
How can they hear the truth above the roar?

Make sure to watch Chicago. I’m sure you’ll love it like I do. But as we laugh and sing along with Chicago, we need to remember that our goal as trial lawyers must always be to make sure everyone hears the truth above the roar.

December 2015 Executive Director’s Letter. NITA in 2016: Strong, Growing, Touching Needs In Even More Ways

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Lockwood_KarenIt has been a great year. Next year, 2016, you will see NITA rolling out what we have been building here at “home.” In our work over these three years, we involved program directors, trustees, authors and faculty leaders in creative collaboration aiming at our growth.

I sounded two themes when I began my service as NITA’s Executive Director. In 2013, I envisioned what our greatest strengths are, how to cultivate them to serve the legal practice, and where we may focus to continue adapting in the coming years.

The strengths? Content. It is “king.” Quality. We own it in our field.

Serving the legal practice? We want to know everything about today’s challenges for practitioners. NITA does more than teach. We study the decade’s changes in the structure of law practice, including market concentration producing large global firms or vierens, the need for mobility that individual lawyers feel, the evolution in client service expectations, legal fee increases, the consequent demand for ever higher productivity, the resulting puzzle of how new lawyers are to gain their experience, and more. We study the fact of a reduced ratio of cases reaching trial and the often ignored fact of expanding numbers of disputes filed in court, in agencies, or in arbitration. We observe the spill-over pressures on underserved clients, the importance of lawyers in medium and small practices. There is more to say . . . perhaps in a later ED Letter.

The coming years? “Change” itself is changing. Change occurs more rapidly, and creates new forces more often. We stay abreast of the changes. Our most important question is this: “What do lawyers in this cauldron of competitive change and noble service need?”

Our answer is this. Every lawyer — from the most senior, the mid-level partner, the new partner, the senior associate, the corporate counsel, the public’s lawyer and the public service one – needs (1) deeply familiar advocacy skills, (2) that are freshened before calling upon them, (3) that are relevant to their practice now and as it changes. They need this for two reasons: first, their individual stature and mobility; second, their ability to “nail it” rather than being stale when entering a trial or hearing. They need it for their client. And they need it for their career.

Content: we have worked with the program directors and other NITA faculty leaders and authors to identify program topics that you need, always focusing on advocacy skills.

Quality: we have focused on the excellence that we have, the excellence that we demand of our faculty, and the excellence that we groom and keep fresh.

Watch us in 2016. Better yet, join us in 2016. Whether you are a lawyer wanting to freshen your skills or up your game, whether you are a client that is as passionate as we are about making your lawyers the best, or whether you are an accomplished trial lawyer who would like to try your hand at teaching with NITA, call me.




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


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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey

Finding a Christmas movie that has tie-ins with the law is no easy task. I mean, after Miracle on 34th Street, there’s not a lot to choose from. But after wracking my brain this weekend, I remembered one. And yes, the title of this review describes the plot!

rememberTheNightPosterThe film is 1940’s Remember the Night, starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck[1] and written by a man who would go on to direct some of the great screwball comedies, Preston Sturges. Although this movie’s plot will sound like every Christmas movie on Lifetime, I assure you that Remember the Night is much, much better than that!

MacMurray plays Jack Sargent, an assistant District Attorney in New York City, assigned to prosecute Lee Leander (Stanwyck) who’s accused of shoplifting a bracelet. Trial begins just before Christmas, and the ambitious Jack worries that he won’t be able to get a conviction from a jury full of the Christmas spirit[2]. By use of some procedural manipulation, he gets the case continued until after the New Year, which means Lee will spend Christmas in jail. Bothered by this, Jack arranges for her to be bailed out, but through a series of misunderstandings, Lee ends up in Jack’s apartment, just as Jack is setting out to drive home to Indiana for Christmas with his family. It turns out that Lee is also from Indiana (what a coincidence!) so Jack offers to drive Lee to her mother’s house and drop her off.

After misadventures in Pennsylvania that involve trespass, a nasty justice of the peace and a flaming wastebasket, Jack gets Lee to her mother’s house – where mom very quickly kicks Lee out. Not surprisingly, Jack ends up taking Lee to his family Christmas and also not surprisingly, Jack and Lee fall in love. (Work with me here: it’s a Hollywood movie from 1940 – and it’s about Christmas!)

After the holiday, the two head back to the city, although Jack offers to help Lee jump bail in Canada; she refuses. When they get back to New York, the trial resumes, but the result is not what you might expect, given the frothy nature of the movie. Even though it’ll surprise you, I think you’ll like it!

I know what you’re thinking: when will I ever be able to watch this movie? Well, I have good news for you! It’s going to be shown on TCM this Friday, December 18th, at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time[3], and again on January 13, at 11:45 Eastern time. See if you can fit it into you holiday schedule!

May every one of our NITA family have a holiday season full of every good thing you could want!

[1] These two would go on to star in one of the greatest of all films noir, Double Indemnity, directed by Billy Wilder and released in 1944. I’ll be reviewing it sometime in the New Year.
[2] This is a real-life phenomenon. Ever wonder why so few cases go to trial right before Christmas? Lawyers hate presenting cases to juries during this time of year.
[3] Contrary to opinion, not every movie I review is so obscure that you can’t find it anywhere!

November 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Taking Stock

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Lockwood_KarenDear Friends,

Thanksgiving, which you and I will prepare for over this weekend, is the time when my thoughts turn to my own year-end gratitude and the reflection of taking stock. I imagine you are the same.

What do you take stock of? Here are some of my zones of interest:

  • Accomplishing our mission at NITA
  • Accomplishing my goals—within my profession, and with my family and friends
  • Balancing my net effect on the larger world, in ideas, commitment, contributions
  • Oh yes, and then there is balancing for ending the tax year, for the full use of flexible spending accounts, for engagement with friends, and for the hours I devoted to exercise versus the hours slipping away to . . . well, to whatever

In this time, I think about the organizations that I support with my talent and tribute.

When you take stock of your donations of talent and tribute, please think of NITA. NITA remains vibrant and impactful—zero-balance-budget and all—because of these two types of donations. When you attend NITA programs, you are taught through the volunteered talent of terrific faculty members. When you attend NITA on a scholarship, or in a public service program, you are learning because of dollars contributed to us to make it possible for us to support you.

Whether you usually contribute talent or tribute, I hope you will place NITA at the top of you giving list in 2015. We need your dollars in order to carry our missions forward.

And that you place us at the top of your list for 2016—start planning your participation in NITA now!

Please call me if you would like to talk. You will enjoy reading through The NITA Foundation section of our website for more information on the purposes of our funds. You can also catch up on what The NITA Foundation is doing by reading the latest edition of it’s newsletter, Giving Voice. Please let us know if you wish to have more information. I look forward to talking to you.

Please join those who give loyally every year. I look forward to writing my personal thank-you letter to you.

Join us. We are growing. We make a difference. NITA needs you in order to continue our organization’s huge contribution of talent and tribute.




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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