The Legal Advocate

A blog brought to you by the national institute for trial advocacy

Category Archives: Public Service Efforts

NITA is devoted to providing all lawyers with access to legal skills training. Public service programs created by NITA teach relevant advocacy skills to dedicated groups of attorneys and advocates who represent underserved communities. We also try our best to accommodate organizations that apply and match our public service criteria by also extending reduced fee programming.

Office of the Public Defender Lagos State Ministry of Justice/NITA Public Service Program

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The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) and the Office of the Public Defender Lagos State Ministry of Justice worked together for the second year in a row on a public service program which trained approximately 70 attorneys on skills such as: direct and cross examination and use of experts. Judge Ann Williams served as Program Director – both in 2016 and again in 2017. Judge Williams worked with Yetunde Ajayi at the Office the Public Defender, in order to put together a 5-day program to meet the needs of the attorneys.

As a result, many of the participants felt their skills greatly improved by the end of the program. One attendee stated, “The course was illuminating and enlightening. I have gained a better understanding of the rudiments of examination and I am truly grateful to all the faculty members for this training.”

Similarly, another attendee stated, “The course was very effective, especially the relevance of the materials. The faculty was very knowledgeable and their teaching techniques were superb.”

Not only did the attendees who participated in the program have great things to say at its conclusion, but Yetunde also stated the program was fantastic once again this year. “It packed so much information and my colleagues and I learned so much in preparation for forensics being introduced into our criminal justice system with the opening of our new DNA & Forensic Center. The faculty was wonderful and we are so grateful to all the members who have offered up their time and NITA for providing the funds to make the program possible. Thank you very much.”


Furthermore, NITA Faculty J.C. Lore, who taught at this program, spoke with NITA’s Senior Legal Editor, Marsi Buckmelter, about his experience. To read the full article click here.

Equal Justice Works/NITA Public Service Program

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October 29-30, NITA and Equal Justice Works (EJW) joined together for a public service program held in Arlington, VA – one day after the Equal Justice Works Conference. NITA and EJW have worked together for several years – this year alone training over 30 EJW Fellows. NITA Program Director Marcia Levy, who has staffed over 100 NITA programs over the years, led the trial skills training, working with a team of NITA faculty and EJW Events & Special Projects Manager, Anita Adams.

The two-day training consisted of skills such as opening and closing statements and direct and cross examinations. After the training concluded, Marcia stated, “It was an incredibly rewarding experience to have gathered together a most dedicated team of NITA faculty, who volunteered their time to provide trial advocacy training to the Equal Justice Works Fellows. The Fellows are smart, passionate and fired up to represent the most underrepresented clients, and it was thrilling to be able to work with them to increase their skills, thereby supporting their impactful work.”

Furthermore, the attendees of this program felt as though their trial skills were greatly improved. One participant stated, “This was extremely helpful, and the instructors were all excellent in the direction and guidance they gave. I really appreciated this great learning opportunity.”

Another attendee stated, “The NITA training course was fantastic – it met me right where I was and provided concrete tips to improve. It also let me get out jitters about performing in the legal arena. Additionally, all of the teachers were helpful and incredibly entertaining. I highly recommend this program and am grateful I got to participate.”

As with all NITA programs, the participants were given the chance to practice each skill over the course of the training and receive immediate feedback from the faculty. Many of the participants agreed that this approach was very helpful and that the faculty were extremely knowledgeable. NITA is grateful to have been able to work with EJW once again on a public service program and hopes to continue training efforts together for many years to come.

LEAP/NITA Public Service Program

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NITA once again joined forces with LEAP, a non-profit organization in New York, to provide a public service program. NITA and LEAP worked together in 2015 on a Teacher Training and a Trial Skills program but this year the topic was Trial Evidence. The training took place October 2-3 in New York and was generously hosted by the law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP.  Senior Vice President of CAMBA, Inc., Janet Miller, was instrumental in working with NITA to put the training together.

NITA Program Director Barbara Barron, who has been a NITA Faculty member on over 100 programs, brought her knowledge and advocacy skills to lead this program. Some of the skills taught included: direct examinations, evidentiary foundations, direct examination with exhibits, and more. As is true NITA fashion, the participants were able to practice these skills and received direct feedback.

One participant stated, “I really liked the course and am glad I was able to attend… The faculty was excellent at demonstrating and pushing us to perform.” Likewise, others agreed they gained many skills from this training

Kansas Public Service Advocacy Skills/NITA Program

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On October 26-28 NITA headed to Kansas in order to conduct a public service training which was funded by a grant from the Kansas Bar Foundation. This training has been conducted for many years and was once again led by NITA Program Director, Judge C. William Ossmann who worked alongside longtime NITA Faculty Mark Caldwell and Judge Robert McGahey from Colorado, as well Public Defender Jessica Glendening, Assistant United States Attorney Dustin Slinkard, and Criminal Defense Attorney Paul Oller. Together – this team trained a diverse group – 6 legal aid attorneys, 3 public defenders, 4 prosecutors, and 4 attorneys from the Attorney General’s office.

The faculty came from a variety of backgrounds which brought immense knowledge on trial skills to the training. Of the diverse faculty, one participant stated, “The faculty worked well together and I appreciated that their feedback and remarks had consistency.”

The trial skills training was held at the Sternberg Museum in Hays, Kanas. This three-day training included skills such as: direct and cross examination, analyzing exhibits, and opening and closing arguments – following the tried and true NITA Method.  One participant stated, “This course was fantastic and I was able to use the tips and tricks I learned that weekend as soon as I was back in the office on Monday. I already feel more confident going into court because I am following the steps NITA laid out for me.”

Furthermore, Program Director C. William Ossmann stated, “It was rewarding to see everyone using their time together to improve their trial skills to benefit their clients, no matter where they might be seated in the courtroom.”

The Kansas program shifts year to year from eastern Kansas to western Kansas and will return to Topeka in 2018.

Deposition Advocacy NITA Public Service Program

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The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) joined forces with Keller Rohrback this year for a deposition advocacy program for public interest attorneys to be held at their Seattle office. The 21 attendees came from organizations such as ACLU of Washington, Columbia Legal Services, Northwest Immigration Rights, and more. The program took place October 13-15 and was led by Program Director, Rhonda Laumann, who is also co-program director for NITA’s Deposition Skills: Seattle program. Rhonda worked with Tana Lin, attorney at Keller Rohrback, to put together the NITA public service program which was met with great feedback by the attendees.

Attorney Tana Lin gives a lecture on defending depositions.

“It was fantastic. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of attorneys, as well as meet a lot of attorneys in the public interest field that I had not yet met. The focus on one main subject and the repetition was helpful in learning a completely new subject to me,” stated one attendee. Repetition has always been a key element of the NITA Method as our faculty work hard to give each attendee the opportunity to practice a skill, receive immediate feedback, and have multiple opportunities to practice.

The three-day training consisted of skills such as The Funnel Technique, beginning the deposition, information gathering, witness preparation, and more. During these three days, attendees were given the opportunity to practice and perfect these skills in a small group setting. Many of the attendees really enjoyed the format of the program as well as the guidance of the faculty.

Likewise, another attendee stated the training was, “Very comprehensive. Given the time, I felt a lot of topics were covered that are essential for taking depositions. I also thought the staff was great. A wide range of insight and valuable information.”

Not only did the attendees have positive remarks about the program, but Tana, who served as faculty while working hard to put the program in motion alongside Rhonda stated, “Many participants told me how the NITA training was sorely needed, how it gave them hope to be training together, and how it gave them the skills to be even better fighters for the vulnerable populations they serve that are being attacked more than ever these days.”

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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