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.

New Mexico Public Defenders/NITA Public Service Program

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This year, NITA joined forces with New Mexico Law Office of the Public Defender for a public service trial skills program, June 8-9 in Albuquerque. During the intensive two-day program, the public defenders learned skills such as opening and closing statements, direct and cross examination, and exhibits. With a “drills-style” and NITA’s tried and true “learning-by-doing”, attendees were able to enhance their trial skills in this customized two-day program. NITA Program Director and Attorney Mary Jo Barr worked with Metro Division Managing Attorney Patricia Anders at the New Mexico Law Office of the Public Defender, to make sure the program schedule was customized to fit the needs of the public defenders.

“I loved this course. It was a very effective in helping boost my trial skills. I especially like that the course helps improve individuals from whatever their current skill may be,” stated one attendee. NITA programs cater to various skills levels which can often create a wide range of attendees.

Likewise, one attendee stated, “This was very helpful. I do not have much trial experience, and it was very useful to get some guidance on being an effective trial advocate. I appreciated the opportunity to practice in front of people, even when I felt uncomfortable.” NITA’s learning-by-doing method calls for many opportunities in which attendees practice a skill and then are able to receive immediate feedback and critiques. This approach means many chances to be on your feet and practicing.

Not only did the public defenders share their successes of the program, but Program Director Mary Jo Barr also felt the course very worthwhile. “Public Service is the noblest good – we hear it so often is has become a platitude. Working with the public defenders of the State of New Mexico at the NITA trial skills program and the difference between talking about public service and doing public service could not have been more obvious or rewarding. It may be a platitude to say it these days but it remains righteous to do it.”

Association of Prosecuting Attorneys NITA Public Service Program

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Attendees of the APA Atlanta Trial Skills program

This year, NITA joined forces with The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) on three public service programs. These programs took place throughout the country in Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Spokane. Two of the three programs focused on enhancing trial skills for the prosecutors, while the third program focused on supervisory skills. Across all three programs, 79 prosecutors received training in the NITA method.

President of the APA, David LaBahn and Deputy General Counsel of the APA, Marlene Botros were integral in working with NITA faculty to put the programs together. “Our partnership with NITA has been an invaluable tool for prosecutors across the country,” said Mr. LaBahn. “It was a tremendous opportunity for all to both network and learn from other professionals from around the United States. These public service programs were extremely beneficial, and we look forward to continuing this successful alliance for years to come.”

Likewise, Attorney James Gailey who served as Program Director for the trial skills program in Atlanta stated, “The NITA public service trial program for prosecutors who handle domestic violence cases was a pure example of the importance of this type of training for lawyers involved in very important work but who might not have the resources to avail themselves of it. The prosecutors that we worked with were highly motivated and prepared and it was very gratifying to see their skills improve in a short period of time.”

Not only did Gailey understand the importance of the programs and how motivated the prosecutors were, but Professor at UALR School of Law, Michael Johnson, who served as faculty at the Spokane program, also recognized the dedication of the prosecutors. “The prosecutors who attended this program were very engaged and dedicated. They face a daunting task in the prosecution of domestic violence cases and the unique issues frequently encountered in trial. It was very rewarding to work with them and along with the APA attorneys that participated as faculty,” said Johnson.

Along with the positive feedback from the APA and NITA faculty, the prosecutors who attended the programs also shared their experiences. One attendee of the Atlanta trial program said, “The training was one of the most helpful I’ve been to… I really feel like I learned a lot and because I was able to practice and get feedback, the learning really stuck.”

With the success of all three programs this year, NITA hopes to continue our efforts to train prosecutors as part of our public service mission.

Nassau Suffolk Law Services NITA Public Service Program

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The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) joined forces with Nassau Suffolk Law Services this year for a public service trial skills program. The program occurred May 10-12 and was held in Plainview, NY. This three-day intensive training of 24 public service attorneys was led by Program Director, Barbara Barron, who has taught over 100 NITA programs.

Furthermore, Supervising Attorney at Nassau Suffolk Law, Rezwanul Islam, who worked closely with NITA to get the program underway, stated the attorneys at Nassau Suffolk Law Services provide a wide range of civil legal services to indigent communities throughout Long Island. Many of the clients they represent include those in family court proceedings, landlord/tenant disputes, and various administrative hearings.  Islam also stated, “The training was intense but fulfilling. I have incorporated aspects of the training into my everyday practice, including case analysis, client interviews and preparation for administrative hearings. What I found particularly helpful was that each instructor had a different practice background, style and personality.”

In order to meet the needs of the attorneys, NITA customized a public service program which included skills such as: direct and cross examination, impeachment, closing arguments, and witness examination. In true NITA fashion – each skill was presented in a “learning-by-doing” methodology where participants were able to learn the skill, practice, and receive immediate feedback/critique. One participant, Susanna Laruccia, stated, ““The NITA public interest training provides an experience that can benefit both experienced attorneys and more recently admitted advocates.  I appreciated having the opportunity to try, to sometimes fail, and ultimately to improve my trial practice in a simulated environment.”

According to Barron, “I believe that the best work we do is in our public service programs where we are training lawyers who advocate for those who normally would not be able to have a voice in the system. Providing public service lawyers with the skills tool box required to do battle for those deserving clients is the best part of advocacy teaching.”

 

Hofstra: Training the Lawyer to Represent the Whole Family NITA Public Service Program

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NITA once again joined forces with the Hofstra University Law Clinic, June 5-9 in Hempstead, NY for a family law advocacy public service program, “Training the Lawyer to Represent the Whole Family”. Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs Theo Liebmann, served as Program Director for the 10th year in a row. This unique public service program is open to attorneys who work in the areas of child protection, custody, or juvenile justice.

Likewise, this program covered skills such as: opening and closing statements, impeachment, interviewing and counseling clients, and much more. This year, Liebmann along with faculty from all over the country, trained 45 attorneys. One attendee stated, “I absolutely loved the program. It is extremely informative and practical. The results by the end of the week are remarkable.”

Liebmann, who first took on the role of Program Director in 2008, said he was very grateful for all of the faculty, “you all do more, of course, than just provide phenomenal teaching insights, you also remind participants how vital their work is, and how it deserves to be approached with at least as much intensity, passion and diligence as any other field of law.”

Cook County Public Defenders and NITA Public Service Program

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This year, NITA joined forces with Cook County Public Defenders for a public service trial skills program, April 25-28 in Chicago. During the four-day program, the public defenders learned skills such as direct and cross examination, using exhibits, courtroom communication, and more. NITA Program Director and Professor, Robert Burns, led the program while working with Chief of Professional Development at Cook County, Parul Desai.

Furthermore the 22 public defenders who attended the program had great things to say about it. One participant stated, “The course was great! I learned a lot and the atmosphere was extremely supportive. It helped me get my confidence back!” Keeping with NITA’s “learning-by-doing” method, another participant stated the NITA teaching method was extremely helpful in improving trial skills.

Not only did the public defenders share their successes of the program, but Burns as well felt the course very worthwhile. “NITA provided an intensive four-day trial practice program for over 20 committed and gifted young trial lawyers from the Law Office of Cook County Public Defender. The Public Defender, Amy Campanelli, strongly encouraged the training and it provided a perfect synergy of experienced NITA teachers, the matchless NITA method, and eager young lawyers who are in the trenches every day.”

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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