The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: Programs

Teaching with NITA: A Report from the Rocky Mountain Basic Trial Program

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This article was re-posted with permission from Chris Behan and the Advocacy Teaching Blog

Suparna Malempati is the Director of Advocacy Programs at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. From time to time, she guest blogs for us. In this blog, she shares her recent experience teaching in a NITA program. I wholeheartedly endorse all she has to say about teaching with NITA, and I recommend the experience for anyone who loves trial advocacy, teaching, learning, and having fun with a great group of people.

The end of an enriching work trip is often bittersweet. On the one hand, you are glad to be home to familiar surroundings and the routine of daily life. On the other hand, you miss the intellectual challenge of being in the company of highly accomplished professionals. I certainly felt that way after four days of teaching with NITA at the Rocky Mountain Basic Trial Program. 

I had wanted to teach with NITA for years. I am not entirely sure how I finally ended up on the roster, but I am grateful to Mark Caldwell for allowing me the opportunity. The program was extremely organized and well run.

I was asked by a few people whether it met my expectations. But before I arrived in Boulder, I truly was not focused on what the experience would be like for me. I was primarily concerned with my own preparation. I reviewed all my notes from the NITA teacher training, I re-read Steven Lubet’s book, I watched all the NITA webcasts, and of course, I read the problem. I wanted to make a good impression and I wanted to impart something useful on the participants. And I hope I did. 

The program was designed to provide maximum time for participants to be on their feet executing skills, while allowing for continuous faculty feedback. The pace of each day was constant, with very little down time. Students received oral feedback from at least two faculty members, individual feedback on their videos, and one-on-one time with a faculty member to repeat the skill. Organization of all the moving parts was tremendous and effective. 

What impressed me as well was the camaraderie among the faculty and the sincerity with which they all approached their task. Our common goal was to impart useful advice, skills, and tips to new lawyers to help them improve their trial techniques. Each and every faculty member brought a unique perspective, but shared the desire that the students grow from their participation in the program. The students were also sincere and eager to learn. The combination of exceptional faculty and earnest students made the experience phenomenal.

Moreover, I learned a great deal from my colleagues. Trial lawyers do not mind when other trial lawyers use their material—we permissibly steal from each other. I am renewed and excited to continue teaching trial skills and advocacy. And if it is not completely obvious, I thought the program was fantastic. 

Suparna Malempati 

Ensuring Top Notch Advocacy for Children and Families

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written by guest blogger and NITA Program Director Theo Liebmann.  Theo Liebmann is the Clinical Professor & Director of Clinical Programs at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.

childAdvocacy2As the Training the Whole Child Program approaches its tenth anniversary, it’s time to wallow in some nostalgia and take a look back . . . .

The Whole Child Program came to Hofstra in 2004 under the leadership of NITA stalwarts Angela Vigil, Mike Dale, and Andy Schepard.  Andy recruited expert faculty from around the country, and we have always mixed in NITA veterans like Angela, Mike, Sandra Johnson, and Ben Rubinowitz with newer stars like JC Lore and Zelda Harris, as well as local Legal Aid standouts like Brian Lamb, Carolyn Kalos, and Carolyn Silvers.  The mission of this crew has always been to use NITA techniques to improve the skills of public service lawyers who represent vulnerable children and parents in overcrowded family courts—a client population in desperate need of high quality representation.  Based on a case file developed by Angela, Tom Geraghty. and Diane Geraghty, the Program made some important choices right from the beginning that, in hindsight, were on the cutting edge:

  • Both the child protection and juvenile delinquency cases in the case file would be heard in a unified family court (“one judge, one family”) for the State of NITA, a practice which was much less common when the Program started, but now is widespread.
  • The child protection case was referred to a specially designed child protection mediation program, another practice that, while rare ten years ago, is now commonly seen.
  • Participants would represent Eva Pena (the child) without substituting judgment.  In other words, they would advocate for Eva’s stated position, regardless of whether that would serve her best interests.  Again, the Program was ahead of the curve, adopting a stance that is far more common today than in 2004.
  • The highlight of the Program soon became the brilliant segment on interviewing children that involved participants working with actual youth in foster care who belong to an organization that promotes advocacy for foster children.

While the participants have at times groaned a bit under the Program’s intensive workload, they deeply appreciate the training they are given and the effort and dedication that goes into it.  Here are a few sample quotes to leave you with and no better way to say Happy Birthday to this program!

I signed up for this class to try to overcome my “shyness” and lack of confidence.  The whole experience surpassed any and all expectations I had. I not only walked away with greater confidence in my abilities, but I was fortunate enough to meet so many wonderful people who care as passionately as I do about children and the law.

I signed up to really hone in on the nuances of my practice as well as correct some bad habits that have fallen into place. I feel confident and energized after finishing the program. I can’t wait to use some of the things I learned.

I knew that I had bad habits but was unsure on how to resolve these habits. My scripts now are getting sharper, more precise and less room for a respondent to take charge of the questioning. My closing statements are more structured.

People told me that I would work hard and learn a lot from any NITA course.  They were right!  This specific course, Training the Lawyer to Represent the Whole Family, is much needed in the field.  I believe that as more practitioners take this course, the quality of practice in the field will increase and so will the outcomes for children and families in juvenile delinquency and child protective proceedings.  Keep up the great work!

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Urgent Notice:

You may have heard the NITA Foundation is trying to raise $12,821.60 by March 31, 2014, to fund this vital New York child advocacy program through the NITA Foundation Public Service Program Fund. NITA cannot provide this and other public service programs without donor support, so please give today by visiting www.nita.org/Donate

Mediation Part One: Excerpts from NITA’s Webcast: How to Use Your Trial Skills to Prepare for Mediation

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Cost: $0.00 | Runtime: 1hr | Program Type: Advocacy Skills

Check out this excerpt from NITA’s Webcast: How to Use Your Trial Skills to Prepare for Mediation. You can view the full webcast on demand here.

Reflection: A Thank You to NITA Faculty

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2012 began NITA’s journey towards its next 40 years.  The continued theme this year was innovation throughout our learn-by-doing programs, publications, and studio71.  The end of 2012 has brought some exciting transitions to the NITA community.  We say farewell and thank you to our beloved Executive Director, John Baker, and are excited to welcome Karen Lockwood as our new leader.  She brings a new level of excitement and eagerness to NITA.

This year in Programs NITA ran 22 public service programs, 121 custom programs and 60 public programs.  Technology and innovative advancements continue to reign through our in-person programming with adding in video lectures to be viewed prior to the programs, advanced drills technique, improved online program platform and training in new skills.  Spanning the three sectors of programs and the dedication of our faculty, NITA has trained nearly 5,000 attorneys during this calendar year.  You should all be proud of this number.

The NITA Foundation continues to sponsor a number of legal service attorneys and need-based attorneys to attend our public programs.  The Foundation awarded 71 public service enrollment spots and 88 need-based scholarships.  Thank you for everyone’s generous donations that make this possible.

The Publications team has published nearly 20 books.  Of those books, six were new case file titles and four were new or updated additions to the Malone’s Little Books series.  Since October, NITA has released 20 e-books, which are now available on Amazon and iTunes. We are also working on an enhanced e-book of The Effective Deposition which will include video, and should be released in January. Over the next year we plan to convert the rest of NITA’s backlist titles, as well as new titles as they are published, to the e-book format.

In its first full year studio71 really took off.  We were able to hold, and fill, six online deposition programs and we have nine on the calendar for 2013.  These programs truly are one-of-a-kind, as was shown when they were named the winner of the ACLEA’s Best Award for Programming in 2012.  This fall marked NITA’s first live webcast which will kick start us going into 2013, when we will have at least one live, online event each month.  In addition to the online learning-by-doing programs, live webcasts, and growing on-demand content library, studio71 also houses the content library for program directors to review and select content to be used in their programs.  Thanks to everyone who has lent their expertise to this growing content library.  We would not be able to make these innovative leaps without your contributions.

We cannot thank you enough for all you do for our organization.   Your volunteer teaching efforts make a large impact on our mission to reach the legal community all across the world.

Thank you!

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 Goal is 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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