The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: Programs

Southern University Law Center and NITA Public Service Program

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For the second year in a row, NITA and the Southern University Law Center (SULC) joined together to offer a public service program for legal service attorneys. This deposition skills program was held May 15-17 in Baton Rouge, LA for 47 attorneys. Program Director, Stephanie Ledesma, who taught at the program last year, brought her knowledge of advocacy to this year’s program once again.

At the conclusion of the program Ledesma said, “I am honored and blessed to work with an organization, NITA, that understands the importance of giving. Public service attorneys are critical to the fabric of our nation; and public service attorneys are so grateful and appreciative for the opportunity to perfect their skills for the benefit of their clients. Participating in public service programs is one way that I serve the community that serves an even larger community.”

Furthermore, Chancellor of Southern University Law Center, John Pierre, who has been instrumental in working with NITA on both this program, and last year’s program, has stated the deposition public service program conducted this year was an excellent program that provided superb training to the participants. In addition, Pierre claims the participants remained highly engaged during the program and the quality of the NITA model of “learning-by-doing” was fantastic.

Some of the skills taught during this program included: introduction to depositions, gathering information, witness preparation, exhibits, and much more. The intensive training was not only well-received by Ledesma and Pierre, but the participants of the program also spoke highly of the training. As one participant stated, “The program was very organized and straight to the point. I enjoyed the hands on activities and learned some great strategies to conduct a successful deposition.”

NITA and the Osaka Bar Association Public Service Program

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NITA Board members Mike Kelly and Ben Rubinowitz served as Program Director and Faculty member at NITA’s Osaka Bar Association Public Service Program, which began on March 7th.

According to Kelly, he first came to Japan in 2008, 2009, and 2010 at the invitation of the Federation of Japanese Bar Association. He has stated that the Japanese unveiled their Saiban-In (or “lay judge”) modified jury system, the jury system is reserved for serious felony cases and involves the addition of six civilians to a panel of three professional judges. According to an article by Columbia Law School, panel member Takashi Maruta, called the Saiban-In a key component of the decade-long effort to democratize and add transparency to the criminal justice system of Japan.

Furthermore, according to Kelly, the Japanese had never tried cases to juries before, as their judicial system was set up by General MacArthur after the end of World War II to parallel the uniform code of military justice. Kelly has stated their initial training in 2008 was very successful and he has received periodic updates from the group of 100 lawyers of whom he trained.

“About a year ago a group of leaders in the Osaka Bar Association contacted me and wanted me to come back to do a series of teacher trainings and specialized focused skill trainings for them,” stated Kelly. Furthermore, Kelly believed the best way to accomplish these trainings would be to bring Rubinowitz along as a second teacher – start in Osaka for two days and then travel to Tokyo to do a training on Friday and Saturday (March 10 and 11).

Both Kelly and Rubinowitz have served as NITA Program Directors and Faculty members for many years and combined, have taught over 100 programs. Their experience and knowledge of the NITA method will help continue the success of the Osaka Bar Association Teacher Training program and advance the teaching skills of each participant from Osaka to Tokyo.

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.

Asked and Answered: Dominique Sims

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sims_dominiqueTexas attorney Dominique Sims says she learned a lot at the Northwest Trial Skills program we held in Seattle last fall, a program she attended through a scholarship funded by the NITA Foundation. “I love NITA programs, and I have grown as an attorney because of them,” she shared recently. “I am living proof of how much the scholarship helped build my infrastructure as an attorney.” It was only natural, then, that we’d want to follow up with Dominique to learn more about her program experience, the unique niche in which she practices, and how NITA fits in, to the benefit of her clients. When Dominique says she loves NITA programs, she’s not kidding: she’ll be in Boulder next month for the National Session, the crème de la crème of our trial skills teachings. Good luck, Dominique!

How did you hear about the Trial Skills program you attended last fall?
Through a friend who suggested the program as a new attorney practicing in complicated civil litigation matters.

How do you think finessing your trial skills has benefitted to your clients?
It helps with your overall bargaining power and understanding the strength and weaknesses of your case. Understanding what’s important to discovery early on in a case is what wins cases. Also, you realize how much you do not know. It is important to build a strong foundation. Once you build a strong foundation, the sky is the limit.

What surprised you about yourself when you were at the program? (A good surprise, or a suboptimal one—just something you were surprised to learn about yourself.)
How much I move my body when I talk. What appears to me as “making someone feel comfortable” when I move my body is actually more of a distraction. It takes the emphasis out of what I say.

You’re the first lawyer I’ve met who has a national security practice, which must be an intriguing space to work in. What kinds of things do you do?
As a national security lawyer, I advise companies on how to maintain their security clearance, which makes up approximately 10 percent of every government contract. For individuals, I help them maintain their security clearance. Oftentimes, when employees lose their security clearance, they lose their jobs. I fight to keep it.

How did you get into this specialized niche?
My father and godfather are military veterans. Plus, I saw a niche in which only a handful of attorneys practice. Even more surprisingly, no one offers the dual service of training and advocacy.

How often are you in court?
I am in court approximately once or twice a month. Oftentimes, I am advocating for my client through motion practice.

What do you most enjoy about working in the law?
I enjoy helping people fight for their rights.

What three things are vital to your day?
A computer, a printer, and my assistant, Angela; without her, I would not have a practice.  Building a strong team is vital to your practice, no matter what developmental stage of you are in. “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

What do you like to do when you’re not busy doing all things lawyerly?
I coach fifth, sixth, and seventh grade girl’s AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball. I am a former college athlete, so I try to help young aspiring athletes attain their goal of a college basketball scholarship.

What are you looking forward to?
Looking forward to the future. The future is unknown but it’s exciting. One day I hope to be on the front cover of Forbes.

Who are your heroes?
Jessica Alba. I know Jessica Alba is a weird choice, but look at the empire she has built from the ground up. She was an actress turned entrepreneur turned multimillionaire. Her story is very fascinating.

Also, my dad, because I would not be the person I am today if he did not expect the best from me.

The NITA Foundation awards a number of scholarships for our public trial and deposition programs to worthy applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to public service and/or financial need. Please support NITA’s mission to promote justice by training and mentoring lawyers to be effective advocates for their clients and donate now.

Enjoy this interview? Find more of our “Asked and Answered” interview posts with NITA personalities here on The Legal Advocate.

Requests for Public Service Applications

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Part of NITA’s mission is to provide high-quality training to all attorneys so they become effective and ethical advocates. Notice the emphasis on “all” attorneys. NITA training isn’t just for Big Law, and it isn’t just for rainmakers. We are dedicated to working with public service attorney groups to provide them with the same training that takes place in our public and custom programs.

We realize it’s unlikely that most public service organization can fully fund this type of training, so we’ve developed a reduced pricing structure that’s flexible enough to meet the budgetary needs of your office. The majority of these programs are Trial Skills or Deposition Skills—but again, we can be flexible to better meet your training needs. To qualify for this type of training under the reduced fee structure, your organization must meet the following public interest programming criteria:

  1. Attorneys or advocates who serve indigent or disadvantaged populations, including, but not limited to, child advocacy, death penalty defense, disability, domestic violence, criminal law areas, immigration, legal services matters, and tribal justice; and
  2. Public agency attorneys working in these areas are eligible automatically.

Agencies and organizations wishing to apply for our reduced fee public service programming must meet the criteria above and provide some level of funding to train their attorneys. We welcome the opportunity to work within an organization’s funding parameters and require a specific agreement that ensures everyone understands their responsibilities for the financial and staffing resources to make for a successful program.

If you’re interested in applying for a public service program for your organization, please complete this application and submit it to We look forward to working with 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 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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