For the first time, NITA and Esperanza Immigration Rights Project joined together to offer a public service program for legal service attorneys in Los Angeles. This trial skills program was held August 7-9 in Santa Monica, CA for 19 attorneys. Program Director, Whitney Untiedt, who has taught at over 50 NITA programs since 2008, brought her knowledge of advocacy skills and passion for NITA, to this training program.
At the conclusion of the program Whitney Untiedt said, “The participants in the Esperanza Immigration Advocacy Program were exceptional learners – dedicated to their clients, and excited to try new techniques to advance their skills. The participants embraced the NITA learning-by-doing method, raised thoughtful questions about best practices in bench trials, and participated in meaningful discussions. They were well-prepared for the performance sessions, and as a result each and every participant was able to demonstrate measurable growth over the course of the three-day program.”
Not only did Whitney see the growth of each individual after the program, but the participants as well saw their skills improve. One participant stated, “[This program] was an incredible opportunity that will reap rewards not only for me, but also for all of my future clients.”
Some of the skills taught during this trial program included: direct examination, making and meeting objections, witness preparation, cross examination, and more. NITA is thrilled to have had the pleasure to work with Pro Bono Coordinator, Kimberly Plotnik, on putting this program together.
This year, NITA joined forces with the Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA), which is an expert legal resource center created by the American Bar Association (ABA) for a public service trial skills program, August 2-4 in Houston. There were over 70 participants in this program which ranged from a large number of Texas non-profit attorneys and pro bono attorneys representing children in asylum matters. NITA Program Director Tom Swett led the program while working with Senior Staff Attorney at CILA, Yasmin Yavar.
This three-day trial program covered skills such as case analysis, making and meeting objections, direct and cross examination, witness preparation and more using NITA’s learning-by-doing method. Tom Swett stated NITA’s ten faculty for the program came from across the United States and volunteered their time to teach. CILA recruited ten faculty members who were experienced immigration trial attorneys in order to co-teach and master trial skills.
At the end of the program, Yasmin Yavar stated, “We are so thankful to NITA for taking us on as a public service program and putting on such an invaluable training… the training was also a great learning experience for volunteer faculty new to NITA’s tried and tested methodology of teaching. The feedback we have received has been great, and we hope to partner with NITA again the future.”
Furthermore, the attendees of this program felt as though their trial skills were greatly improved. One participant stated, “The course was excellent. I appreciated the learning-by-doing approach, as well as the very direct and honest feedback. I think this should be a must for any attorney practicing in front of adjudicators.”
Likewise, another attendee stated, “This was the most practical and comprehensive training I’ve attended. The interactive sessions were supremely helpful – both as the performer and as the observer.”
Not only did the attorneys who attended the program find the program to be successful, but Tom Swett agreed that putting on this public service program was very worthwhile. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world (Nelson Mandela). NITA and CILA brought this quotation to life when we partnered to teach over 70 immigration trial attorneys and improve their trial skills. Their clients are children who seek asylum in America, having fled from war torn countries where gang violence, child trafficking, and abuse often threaten their survival… NITA’s public service programs are essential to promoting the rule of law and equal justice for all. Being a part of this program is a humbling experience that reminds me of how important it is to ensure trial attorneys are trained to zealously represent their clients.”