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August 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Women Trial Lawyers – Brilliance Is Shining

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Because we are NITA, and because we enroll nearly comparable numbers of men and women across our live programs for trial skills and depositions, we know several things:

  • Lawyers who learn, practice, and perform at trial excel in advocacy without distinction among gender.
  • Lawyers care about using the best advocates, paying attention to the diversity of the advocates who appear at trial. And women are ready. They bring their commitment, a competitive spirit, and the drive to master their courtroom impact into our programs.
  • Women in First Chair at trial are vastly underrepresented. This need not be.

Marshalling the strength of this half of trial bar remains an unfulfilled imperative. Brilliance shines. But competition for first chair favors the incumbents. Bringing the balance, variety, talent, and credibility of a woman trial lawyer to the jury and judge requires that each of us stop. We read and learn where the career obstacles are. We coach the woman and champion for her, to overcome the obstacles. For the women you know, right there in your practice, do it personally. Whatever your gender.

1974. The vice-president for sales of a very large public company learns I am embarking on law school. “A woman! What do you want to do,” he says at the picnic. “Be a litigator? That is nearly impossible for a woman – grinding, long hours, tough world.” I believe him to be urging me by misdirection to follow that plan. If not, it doesn’t matter: I take the red alert to heart. (And from it, am indeed spurred on.)

1982. The three women partners at our DC firm of 90 lawyers gather the 15 women associates (we are a progressive firm) in the building lobby for lunch out. The elevators bring cab after cab of partners down, elbowing their way through our small throng. Glancing up to wonder about this crowd, this expression crosses their lips – or their faces. “Oh! Ooooohhh.” (Point made.)

1994. We six women partners in a prominent boutique firm of 90 lawyers gather our 25 women associates for a chat in the gorgeous windowed conference room: 250⁰ river views, and beers in a bucket. “Let’s think about how we can get together regularly, support each other and champion each other.” There is little interest. Why? They do not see a reason. Rather, the risk of labelling themselves as unique amid their male associates warns them off. (“Oh. Oooooohhh.” Our turn, different angle.)

2005. Across the country, the broad culture around women in law remains silent, symptomatic of the 1995 days. The playful urges, the purposeful championing of women – it has gone away, perhaps thought unnecessary, likely unpopular. And, thus, certainly risky.

So, in 2006, we at the WBA in DC convened 220 lawyers to talk engage in finding solutions. For 16 hours over 4 monthly sessions, managing partners and bar leaders eagerly exchanged the frustrations and the ideas around elevating the talent and success of women lawyers. The WBA’s published report covered Women in Law Firms (Creating Pathways to Success, May 2006). Silence ended. Continuing reports covered Women of Color (Creating Pathways to Success for All Women, May 2008), and Women Corporate Counsel (Navigating the Corporate Matrix, May 2010)

Focusing on women trial lawyers, is it better now? An important new research report was just released by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. First Chairs at Trial – More Women Need Seats at the Table (ABA Commission on Women, June 2015).

This report, an empirical study of cases filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, displays the substantial disparity of women as lead counsel as against women in the profession. It depicts types of cases in which women are more present, and less. Best practices are laid out for law firms, clients, judges, law schools, and women lawyers themselves.

In 2005, DRI also convened a task force to address women at trial. [A Career in the Courtroom: A Different Model of Success of Women Who Try Cases (DRI Women’s Committee, trial lawyer study (Defense Research Institute Task Force on Women Who Try Cases, 2005)]

These reports – and others like them from the Utah Women’s Bar and elsewhere, integrate the puzzles of the practice environment, the pressures that women face, the systems and structures of the practice, and the importance of fixing the imbalance of women in trials. Those are the starting points for understanding the factors at play, rather than relying on personal opinion. I commend them for reading.

And I advocate that we all pursue excellent trials by opening the access to first chair for the best trial lawyers – without leaving behind the women, lawyers of color, and lawyers in other groups that deal with culturally maintained stereotypes. Indeed, bringing forward that talent requires positive action.




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


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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey
As I’ve stated on numerous occasions, I’m an Anglophile of huge proportions. For this month’s movies, I’ve picked three British films that have divorce as a driving element of the plot.

posterBillOfDivorcementWe’ll start with 1932’s A Bill of Divorcement[1]. This is the second movie based on a British play of the same name. The play was inspired by a law passed in England in the ‘20’s that allowed a woman to divorce her husband if he were found insane. In this movie, Billie Burke plays Meg Fairfield and Katherine Hepburn stars as her daughter, Kit. Meg has obtained a divorce from her psychotic husband, Hilary, with the assistance of Gray (Paul Cavanaugh) the man she now intends to marry. Kit, too, is engaged to be married, to concert pianist Sydney (David Manners[2].) This happy quartet is thrown completely out of kilter by the shocking Christmas Eve arrival of Hilary, played by the ineffable John Barrymore[3] Hilary has escaped from the asylum, and thinking he’s cured, expects to resume married life with Meg. How his desire plays out affects not just Meg, Gray and Hilary, but Kit and Sydney as well.

divorceOfLadyXWe’ll next turn to The Divorce of Lady X, from 1938. This comedy of mistaken identities has a seriously all-star British cast: Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, and Ralph Richardson. Olivier plays an uptight lawyer, who because of an exception London fog and a shortage of rooms, ends up a chastely sharing his hotel room with Oberon for a night. Fascinated by the lady, the lawyer tries to connect with her. When she avoids him, he convinces himself that the lady must be married. The lawyer then is hired by Richardson’s blustery husband to represent him in a divorce – and you know who the lawyer decides the wife must be. Don’t worry, it all works out in the end[4].

morgan!We’ll finish with Morgan! from 1966. A true artifact of the “swinging 60’s,” this film stars David Warner as a man trying to keep his ex-wife (Vanessa Redgrave) from remarrying. The film is full of references to English class differences: Morgan is an artist, the son of working-class parents, while his ex is seriously upper crust. Morgan’s efforts become more and more bizarre, and he eventually goes completely bonkers, ending up in the loony bin. But in the end, he’s actually the winner in his quest to reunite with his ex-wife – maybe. The film is a great deal of fun, notable for showing us Morgan’s internal fantasy life, which includes references to King Kong.

I know everyone doesn’t share my devotion to things English, but trust me, you’ll enjoy all of these movies!


[1] Slight cheat here: this movie is set in England, but was made in the United States.

[2] Most famous for playing Jonathon Harker in 1931’s Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi.

[3] A brilliant actor, known as the “the Great Profile.” He’s Drew Barrymore’s grandfather.

[4] Lady X is proof that the “rom-com” is not a new invention.

Catch Up On NITA’s studio71 Most Recent Webcasts

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Stein_RobertHow I Learned To Love The Non-Responsive Witness, And You Can Too

Presented by: Robert Stein, The Stein Law Firm, PLLC

What happens when a witness becomes non-responsive to your questions on cross-examination, downright hostile to you, or exhibits an ability to trick the examiner by asking questions of him or her? Most lawyers are filled with panic on the thought of everything “not going according to plan”. Others see this as a golden opportunity to enhance your case and defeat the witness’s credibility. Tools and techniques for enjoying the moment will be discussed, and demonstrated.

OnDemand | → Watch Now For Free

Rise above the rest: Mastering the Top 10 Communication Skills for Lawyers…PART 2

Fine-tuned communication skills separate the good from the great. This webcast gives lawyers the opportunity to hear practical advice on the art of small talking, messaging techniques, extemporaneous preparation, and the vocal deliveries that produce results for lawyers. This is the second part of this communication skills webcast. Part one is available on-demand.

OnDemand | → Watch Now For Free

Family Court Advocacy Problems – and How to Fix Them

Sometimes both lawyers and judges forget that Family Court proceedings are still trials and that the same principles of advocacy, goals of persuasion and rules of evidence apply in Family Court as in any other court. Join our panel of two experienced family court judges and a family court practitioner for a presentation on what problems they see on a regular basis and how to fix those problems or avoid them altogether.

OnDemand | → Watch Now For Free

View NITA’s Full Library Of OnDemand Content

July 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA’s Annual Report, A Happy Glance Back, New Things Ahead

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We look back every year to count our programs, the people we reach, the faculty we thank, the public service program impact, and the liveliness of our famous publications both bound and digital. I am proud to say, “we are so proud!”

Please, now, click here to enjoy our visual, colorful 2014 Annual Report. I explain how we carry this forward in 2015.

  1. For publicly enrolled programs, in 2014, 924 NITA faculty trained 1863 attendees at 65 publicly enrolled programs, plus 37 who took on-line programs. Lawyers from all 50 states attended, plus 5 continents. We continue to train and deepen our faculty bench. Send us referrals to the best trial lawyers in your region!
  2. For custom programs, including those exclusively for public service attorneys, in 2014 NITA trained 3241 attorneys, 19% of whom are in public service practices. We continually expand our custom offerings based on the client’s objectives, and invest in continuing our public service work.
  3. For video content, studio71 is exploding. In 2014, on-line integrated learning tools were selected by 8235 lawyers, from 384 presentations available, amounting to 4376 hours viewed. Our video library is strong and growing. Our signature new trial and deposition lectures and demonstration are coming online. These streaming tools mirror the high quality and intensity of NITA’s programs, and are elected for certain programs as bonus tools.
  4. For publications, our famed and unique case file collection grows and updates, targeting new types of disputes, factual scenarios that mirror our online culture, and more. In 2014, we report 144 active case files. We have many more case files than you would have heard of – you should use more of the gems in the collection. Pick them to make your class or program new and unique. Email Jennifer Schneider.
  5. You can’t say “publications” without saying “eBooks too” for our NITA treatises, guides, and more. In 2014, 70 of our non-case file titles were available in eBook format. These collections expand annually. Check back twice a year with the semi-annual catalogue, or online any time. NITA pubs: unique, practical, organized for quick reference, the best balance in a case file.
  6. The NITA Foundation gave 107 scholarships in 2014 – making a big difference to that many lawyers. But 201 applicants left an almost 50% shortfall in the scholarship funds available. We aim to increase our donations from $144,935 in 2014 to over $200,000. Please help here. Our Giving Voice online newsletter will inspire and explain.

I would love to hear from you. Email me, call my office. There is nothing more important to NITA than you, our faculty, attendees, admirers, supporters and friends. Spread the word in your regions, to your friends!




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

May 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Trustees Spring Meeting

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Lockwood_KarenLast Thursday, NITA’s Board of Trustees gathered for its Spring Meeting. Did you know that our twenty-one active Trustees draw from across the country, and work in many of the judicial circuits? They include non-lawyers and lawyers, you may know some of them yourself.

Over the next few months, the Trustees will be developing our next strategic areas of focus. I can promise you that the result will be strategic priorities that leverage our strengths, that increase the magnetic force of NITA’s core and its field of influence, and that draw learners and teachers alike toward our center: NITA’s essential learn-by-doing programs are where advocates master advocacy.

In this past weekend’s meeting, the Board participated in a thrilling review of NITA’s energized and growing operations. They are as excited as we are –and as you are — by our constantly innovating. Thanks to your participation, we also see ever-expanding communications within our network of NITA learners and faculty through NITA’s blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Keep it up!

What is most important of all? Word-of-mouth. More, actually. Hand grasping hand. Taking another lawyer by the hand is the sine qua non of coaching: the coach must lead other lawyers to enter their NITA program experience, as their champion. Our Trustees work hard to bring NITA’s unique learning-by-doing method to an ever broader audience.

I hope you too will find five people this month to lead to NITA. Tell each that this is their time to dive into their big NITA course.

In fact, tell them that NITA is hot. That NITA is the place where they claim and come to “own” their particular advocacy talents. With the most focused and influential coaches they will ever have.

Our Board comprises strong leaders in their respective fields – judicial, law practice, law school, and experts in related fields. Active in national legal organizations, they are leaders who challenge each other, who have fun together, and who are passionate about NITA. Through great meetings, this talent coalesces, giving NITA their broad perspective, high energy, and insight.

Write below your appreciation for the insight of our Trustees. Whether or not you know them, tell them how grateful you are for their hard work and enthusiasm.

And stay close to us!




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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