The Legal Advocate

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Thank You to the U.S. Department of State International Visitors

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NITA was pleased to welcome seven esteemed guests from seven different countries who are part of the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), consisting of international advocates devoted to protecting women and children.

The group arrived at NITA’s headquarters in Boulder, CO on Wednesday, August 8th to meet with NITA Executive Director, Wendy McCormack, NITA Director of Programs, Michelle Rogness, and Member of the NITA Board of Trustees, John Baker. Boulder was one stop on the group’s tour which is a 3-week long professional exchange program.

According to Wendy McCormack, “NITA supports rule of law efforts globally so being able to meet with representatives from seven countries and hear first-hand the real issues they are tackling is imperative for how NITA moves forward with our international outreach and training worldwide. These visitors are really driving change in their country and that’s inspiring.”

Furthermore, one of the visitors was Ms. Yetunde Ajayi, Chief State Counsel at the Office of the Public Defender Lagos State Ministry of Justice. This is the second year in a row that NITA has worked with Ms. Ajayi to put together an international public service training program for the public defenders in Nigeria. This year, NITA won an ACLEA’s Best Award for the programming we did in Nigeria and we were so excited for the opportunity to meet Ms. Ajayi in person here at NITA.

In regards to the meeting, John Baker stated, “The Department of State International Visitors meeting reminded me of the critical need to fund NITA’s outreach to our Rule of Law colleagues in Central and South America. Spanish language programs need expanding. The need by these growing democracies is very real. The meeting was very eye opening and the visibility of our programming reputation is still vibrant and real.”

Thank you once again to the International Visitor Leadership Program, NITA was very grateful to be part of the tour and we look forward to continuing our international training efforts.

A Thank You to Karen Steinhauser

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NITA would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to Karen Steinhauser who finished up her third and final year as a co-program director for NITA’s National Session. Back in 2004, Steinhauser served as an Assistant Team Leader at the National Session and then in 2016, she began her first year as co-program director. Over the years, Steinhauser has been a faculty member with NITA on over 100 programs and we thank her for her dedication to NITA. The 2018 National Session concluded on August 2nd where Steinhauser led the team of NITA faculty alongside Co-Program Director Michael Washington. Washington will be service as the co-program director, along with a new program director who will be announced at a later date, for the National Session once again in 2019.

NITA and Lawyers Without Borders Go to Kenya for a Public Service International Program

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NITA and Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) joined forces and ventured to Kenya for a public service international program, held July 23 – 27 at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies. Judge Ann Williams served as NITA’s Program Director, leading a group of 17 faculty members who trained 80 attorneys in Kenya on Trial Advocacy and Prevention of Terrorism Act.

After the 5-day training concluded, NITA Faculty Shareema Abel stated, “All I can say is wow! Kenya was nothing short of amazing. The trainees were engaged and the Kenyan Institute trainers embraced the NITA method. I feel so blessed to have been chosen for such an awesome opportunity. It drove home how much we have here in the States and how important it is to advocate for others. I was there to teach, and in turn I was taught so much!”

Ms. Abel also said she had the pleasure of teaching the NITA method, alongside NITA Faculty Mike Ginsburg, to the LWOB faculty and the Kenyan institute trainees whom all worked together to train the group of attorneys.

Monthly Theme: Opening Statements Part Three

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Distilling Effective Rhetoric for Persuasive Opening Statements

Written by NITA guest blogger Sara Jacobson1

Opening statement is the first time a lawyer gets to lay their case out to the jury. It is the first impression you make, and the first impression the jury takes about your case. You want the jury to believe you, to understand you, to be moved by you such that when the introduction of evidence begins as the witnesses are called, they understand what the case is about and are, at least, amenable to your client’s perspective on the facts. In short, you want to persuade.

A good opening statement sets the context of the story of the case, such that when jurors receive pieces of evidence during the trial, they fit those bits of information as into the framework you built in your opening. But how best to persuade? Aristotle spoke of three types of persuasive appeal, and these three remain instructive to anyone preparing to open. We examine each in turn. They are:

    • Logos: persuasion through the logic of the argument.
    • Ethos: persuasion through the integrity of the person arguing.
    • Pathos: persuasion through the emotional connection of the argument, but at its most effective when the person arguing is as emotional in delivery as the argument itself.

First consider logos, the attempt to persuade through logic. Many traditional notions of opening statement, like speech structure, fit here. By giving the jury a logical structure to follow, you will better hold and keep their attention. The constructs of storytelling, always critical to effective opening statements, fit here as well. A story has distinct elements: exposition, an inciting incident, rising action, the turning point or climax of the story, falling action, and ultimately, resolution.2 Imagined then through the lens of opening statement, that structure might look like this:

  • EXPOSITION: brief introduction to background of events, scene, and parties;
  • INCITING INCIDENT: identification of the issues at stake and their relation to the people in the
  • RISING ACTION: narration of main action or conflict;
  • CLIMAX: turning point of the issue at question;
  • FALLING ACTION: discussion of any weaknesses; and
  • RESOLUTION: wrap-up of the speech and request for the verdict you’ll want at the end of the trial.3

Note that your brief introduction or exposition section should encapsulate the notion of primacy- that starting strong matters- and means that your introduction should include both a clear case theory and a theme that resonates.

Choice of case theory and theme also resonate with ethos, or persuasion through the ethical integrity of the speaker. You want the jurors to believe you and therefor to believe your side of the case. Ethos includes both speaker and speech, though, as for the jury to best believe you, your case theory must also have integrity. That means it needs an internally consistent narrative that also conforms to community notions of common sense. Put simply, the jurors need to be able to relate to it, which means you must consider the community to whom you are opening when shaping your message. Your theme is the value you associate your case theory with, and it, too, must work well within the integrity
of your approach in an opening. Of course, the notion of integrity means more than your message. It means you must comport yourself, both in opening and across the trial, as a person of good faith, hiding nothing, and embracing your case’s weaknesses as best you can, rather than ignoring them. Which leaves with perhaps the most important piece of the persuasive opening, the pathos or emotion in it. Jurors are motivated by the desire to do justice, to do good. In that quest, jurors can be moved to act by their emotions. To make an effective emotional appeal first, look for the humanity in your case, for the people driving the action. An opening with lasting impact centers around the people affected by the transaction, not on the pieces of paper themselves.4 Second, remember that effective delivery matters when it comes to emotional persuasion. Effective storytelling in an opening allows the lawyer to speak from the heart. For the jury to feel that impact, the lawyer should: deliver with passion, without relying on notes; ensure that the tone of their delivery matches the emotion in language of the speech; vary the emotion in the speech so it doesn’t stay in one place too long, and finally remember to use their whole selves including movement, gestures, eye contact, and pauses, to build drama into the

Use principles of logos to guide your structure. Use ethos to ensure that both your case theory and you speak with credible integrity. Use pathos to build emotional impact and effective delivery into your opening. Each will help you build the context of the narrative for the jurors, such that by the end of your opening they will be moved to fit the facts into the strong framework you built for them.

1 Director of Trial Advocacy Programs and Associate Professor, Temple University, Beasley School of Law
2 Ann Aubrey Hanson, 7-Step “Freytag’s Pyramid,” The Writing Itch, August 21, 2014. Available at:
3 A similar version of this organization is found in Gerry Powell’s excellent piece on openings. Gerald R. Powell, Opening Statements: The Art of Storytelling, 31 Stetson L.Rev. 89, at 96-97 (2001). 4 Id.



NITA Past Board Members Recognized at The American Law Institute

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NITA Past Board Members Joseph R. Bankoff and Louise A. LaMothe

NITA would like to congratulate Past Board Members Joseph R. Bankoff and Louise A. LaMothe who became Life Members at The American Law Institute (ALI) during their 95th Annual Meeting. The ALI is the nation’s premier law reform organization which is limited to 3,000 members –  elected from judges, law professors, and practitioners from throughout the United States and abroad.

An ALI Life Member is someone who has been a member for 25 years. LaMothe and Bankoff’s class was selected in 1993 and celebrated its 25th year during the Annual Meeting. According to LaMothe, “It’s been a great honor to participate in the ALI’s many contributions to the law.”

LaMothe and Bankoff both served on the NITA Board for many years and we congratulate them on this amazing achievement and for their dedication to 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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