The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: NITA Notes

The National Institute for Trial Advocacy and Hughes Hubbard Announce Collaboration on Guide for Federal Court Trial Lawyers

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Boulder, Colo. and New York, March 15, 2017 – The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) and Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP are pleased to announce that they are collaborating on the publication of a new guide for federal court trial lawyers.

Entitled “Playing To Win: Appellate Preservation for Trial Lawyers in Federal Court,” the guide will be co-authored by Hughes Hubbard lawyers Robb Patryk, Ross Lipman and Jonathan Misk and will address appellate preservation rules, techniques and case law applicable to every stage of trial.

The guide will be offered free of charge as a courtesy to trial lawyers on NITA’s and Hughes Hubbard’s websites and their respective social media platforms. The targeted publication date is May 15, 2017.

About The National Institute for Trial Advocacy
The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (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 pioneered the legal skills learning-by-doing methodology over 40 years ago and has since remained the ultimate standard in continuing legal education. For more information, visit

About Hughes Hubbard & Reed
Hughes Hubbard is a New York City-based international law firm that offers clients results-focused legal services and a collaborative approach across a broad range of practices. Hughes Hubbard was founded in 1888 by the distinguished jurist and statesman Charles Evans Hughes and is renowned for its trial and appellate practice in complex cases, including litigation involving issues related to product liability and toxic torts, antitrust and competition, corporate reorganization, international arbitration, and patent and intellectual property. For more information, visit

NITA Advanced Trial Advocacy Program for the Trinidad and Tobago Legal Aid and Advisory Authority Held in Port of Spain

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by guest blogger and NITA faculty Doris Cheng

NITA provided advanced trial advocacy training to thirty-two attorneys from the Trinidad and Tobago Legal Aid and Advisory Authority (LAAA), a unit of the Ministry of Legal Affairs that provides affordable legal assistance to indigent citizens in criminal and civil cases, including family and property matters. The program was funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) through the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) as part of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). The three-day skills program furthered the CBSI’s intention to improve the rule of law by supporting the development of the justice sector. Similar programs have been held for prosecutors in the Bahamas, Antigua and Jamaica for prosecutors in the Easter Caribbean.

JoAnne Richardson (NCSC Program Director), Hon. Teri Jackson, Dina Abaa-Ogley (Director of INL at the US Embassy), Israel Khan (Chairman of LAAA), Doris Cheng, JoAnne Roake, J. Michael Roake, and Cynthia Goode Works in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

The Advanced Criminal Trial Advocacy Program for the LAAA was held in Port of Spain on January 26–28, 2017. Dignitaries from the U.S. Embassy, Ministry of the Attorney General, LAAA, and NCSC gave opening remarks, describing their respective commitment to creating and sustaining a fair and just legal system. Members of the LAAA’s Head Office, Arima District Office, San Fernando District Office, Couva Office, as well as the Legal Aid Clinic, participated in the training. NITA provided the case file, State v. Baker, an intricate murder case with claims of domestic violence and self-defense.

Five NITA faculty members—Doris Cheng, J. Michael Roake, JoAnne Roake, Cynthia Goode Works, and Hon. Teri Jackson—lectured on opening address, oral presentation techniques, examination in chief and cross-examination of lay and expert witnesses, contending with difficult witnesses, and summation. The faculty led workshops with video review in each of these areas with immediate results. NITA Program Director Cheng remarked, “The LAAA attorneys were quick studies and implemented many of the techniques seamlessly. The workshops helped the participants develop a ‘muscle memory’ of the skills that the participants deftly integrated into their performances. As usual, NITA’s trademark learning-by-doing process brought to life the effectiveness of great advocacy.”

The closing ceremony was filled with enthusiastic praise for the success of the training program. The LAAA attorneys expressed an interest in gaining additional NITA training. The legal advocacy training in Trinidad, as with others held around the world, is part of NITA’s ongoing commitment to improving justice by helping lawyers develop and refine their advocacy skills.

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

Book Review: Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada

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The Verdict, the quarterly magazine of the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia, reviews NITA books from time to time. Today, we are delighted to share Michael Sporer’s review of Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada, by NITA authors Steven Lubet, Cynthia Tape, and Lisa Talbot, reprinted below with permission and in its entirety. Our thanks to the Trial Lawyers Association for their interest and support of NITA publications.

Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada (Third Edition)
Steven Lubet, Cynthia Tape, Lisa Talbot
NITA, 2010, 481 pages

Reviewed by Mike Sporer, Sporer Mah and Company

Older lawyers who are also hockey fans will remember the Wild West days in Queen’s Park Arena when Ernie “Punch” McLean coached the New Westminster Bruins. But it wasn’t all madness and mayhem. McLean’s teams earned four straight Memorial Cup appearances from 1975‒1978, winning the Cup twice.

The Bruins took the trophy in 1977, but the 1977‒1978 team had fallen short on talent. Barry Beck, Brad Maxwell, and other stars, had graduated. No one expected the hard-working team of grinders, led by Stan Smyl, to go deep in the 1978 playoffs. But the Bruins, after a mediocre regular season, won four straight playoff series, again earning the right to represent the Western Hockey League at the Memorial Cup, held in Ontario, at Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.

The underdog Bruins arrived in Sudbury and were promptly crushed 7‒2 by the Ontario champion Peterborough Petes. The mighty Petes, coached by Gary Green, with strategic input from former Petes head coach (and later NHL legend) Roger Nielsen, used an effective centre ice press to bottle up their opponents. The Bruins lost once more to the Petes at the tournament, but, due to the round robin format, were able to survive the two losses, beat the Quebec champs Trois-Rivières, and earn a right to play the Petes one more time in the final game.

The final was to be played in Sudbury. Punch McLean took the Bruins out to Sault Ste. Marie, where no one could see what they were working on. There, in a locked down arena, he unveiled a completely different break-out plan, that would have a Bruins defenceman come up the centre of the ice to break the Peterborough press. For over two hours, Punch drilled the new break-out plan into the team.

When the final game started, this time it was different. The underdog Bruins took an early lead, and before the confused Petes could adjust to their opponent’s pre-game plan, they were behind the eight ball. The Bruins never looked back, went on to win 7‒3, and claimed their second consecutive Memorial Cup.

Pre-trial planning is like pre-game planning—a must. It can make all the difference. And pre-trial planning is where Professor Steven Lubet, Williams Memorial Professor of Law at Northwestern University, begins his outstanding treatise, Modern Trial Advocacy. The book, written for American trial lawyers, has a Third Canadian Edition titled Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada, with modifications provided by two Canadian trial lawyers from Ontario, Cynthia Tape and Lisa Talbot. But any recent edition—Canadian or American—will do. It covers all the basic aspects of trial—from pre-trial planning to closing argument—and is the single best introduction to trial advocacy available.

Lubet explains the pre-trial steps that he considers a must. He shows the importance of developing a trial theme—the “moral force” behind the case—and explains how to prepare a persuasive trial story.

He covers the essentials of case theory planning and development, highlighting the fundamentals of a good case theory: it must be simple, logical, and easy to believe. If there is room to criticize Professor Lubet—and there is very little—he might, in places, have simplified his discussion of case theories to articulate more clearly the important distinction between factual and legal theories of a case. But in any event, his discussion of the subject is still very good, and the lessons he offers are of great value.

Lubet’s most important single piece of advice relates to pre-trial planning: start by preparing final argument. “Good trial preparation begins at the end,” says Lubet. “It makes great sense to plan your final argument first.”

This bit of basic advice remains a cornerstone of any pre-trial preparation, yet it remains overlooked by many. As another great advocate once said, a trial is no place to be writing a closing argument. Tinker with it at trial? Certainly. How the evidence unfolds will require that. But it should be no more than tinkering, and Lubet’s book, in its discussion of pre-trial planning, puts first things first.

Lubet takes the reader from pre-trial planning through all the phases of trial, with excellent discussions of direct examination, cross examination, impeachment, expert evidence, foundations and exhibits, opening, and final argument. As he always does, Professor Lubet dedicates a considerable amount of space to important issues of legal ethics, including a very good discussion of the ethics of persuasive storytelling.

There are books that cover particular aspects of case planning and trial work more thoroughly—but none covers it all so effectively. This is a treatise. Lawyers called for less than five years should not be without Modern Trial Advocacy. Experienced trial lawyers would be unwise not to keep a copy on their shelves.

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.





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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