Tag Archives: Karen Lockwood

February 2016 Executive Director’s Letter. Where In The World . . . and Why?

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Lockwood_KarenLast weekend I attended an address by the President of the World Bank Group, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, to my law school in Washington DC. Regarding NITA’s international work, I posed the following question to him:

  • NITA is a national organization that serves justice in adversarial systems by teaching advocacy skills.
  • We have a small but impactful global involvement, limited by funding, where we teach advocacy skills to those who invite us in areas of the world where the justice system is in transformation. We choose by these criteria, believing that our work will count.
  • Unlike the distribution of malaria drugs that were proven effective in a poverty-stricken society in Haiti, we are not “delivering” a “product” for consumption. Rather we can be said to be exporting a system – one that we believe in, but ours nevertheless.
  • How would folks at the World Bank, and Dr. Kim with his experience in Haiti alongside Dr. Paul Farmer, suggest we think about our role, our instruction, and our boldness in supporting adversarial systems applied to non-western cultures?

Dr. Kim’s answer is piercing in its acknowledgement of widely diverse cultures, and inspiring in its recognition of the importance of our work. His points included these:

  • Proving, as Dr. Farmer has, that something which “cannot be done” in fact can be done, is critical. (See Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder)
  • The question remaining at the end of the day is how to use systems and governance in order to sustain such developments within a culture or nation.
  • The governance is what must create and retain systems, intact.
  • A huge part of development is going to happen in the private sector. That investment will not take root without people, governments, and systems that can be trusted.
  • “So, I would say, thank you so much for doing that and thank you so much for going out and pursuing governance” systems that bring justice.
  • No matter where we are we’ll see poor people who have smart phones and know how others live.
  • This hot line of transparency, from people taking pictures and transparent communications, will force the governments toward increasing services for people, attending to human rights, and putting systems in place.
  • Everyone has good laws; it is about implementation, and that is up to the government, a system, and a just system that people will believe in.

And that is why NITA works hard to do international work that is mission-driven, that helps nations to sustain their own justice systems, and that believes in the trustworthiness of due process gained adversarial justice systems.

I write because it is worth the moment to say this. Where do we go in the World, and Why we are there? Both have been answered when NITA goes overseas.




Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

July 2014 Executive Director’s Letter. What “Real People” Activities Are You Planning in August?

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Here are some terms popular now in legal blogs, the legal press, and other purveyors of lawyers’ tools to understand the business of our profession better. (No judgment here – my greatest obsession is to achieve such wisdom.)

  • Teaching Legal Theory / Thinking / Writing
  • Graduate Employment Rates
  • Big-Law / Public service/ Agency
  • Experiential
  • Partner / Senior Associate / Associate / Contract Attorney / Staff Attorney
  • Lead / Empower / Network
  • Mentor / Marketing / Connect
  • Manage / Schedule / Balance
  • Client Development / Promotion / Advancement
  • Goal / Measurement / Assessment

Pause!! Let August recharge your individuality with “real person” activities. Here are some to consider:

  • Swimming laps
  • Community softball (outside the law firm leagues)
  • Jogging groups that include strangers
  • Two weeks with tent, Coleman stove, and a roadmap
  • Practicing with a community choir
  • Walking with the purpose of meeting neighbors

OK, these are not too exciting. That’s why I am starting a contest to share good and better ideas. What are your best “do-able” ways to see different ways of life. To spend time with people who are simply not thinking of topics that keep your attention. To replenish the human in you. To hear and consider how other people are thinking, what they are worrying about, what news headlines are important to them, what they think about these times and their troubles.

In short, how will you use August to deepen your humanity? To broaden your capacity to know how people think who are not at all like you.

In this, you also find your greatest capacity to excel as a trial lawyer. We lawyers need to be real. We need to know how the jury’s gut and heart inform their judgment. What they fear. How they reason. We need to be in their world. Happily, these qualities of a great trial lawyer are acquired by knowing and grooming your own humanity.

So, every week in August include a bit of reality training! Share with us what you are going to do. You might win!




Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

March 2014 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA’s First Quarter 2014: Forward, Grow!

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Lockwood_KarenIn my monthly letters this year, I have reflected on substantive topics of interest. In February:  what does it feel like to be a NITA alum, not thinking only of the courtroom, but rather thinking of your image — in your city or region or practice, among your peers or role models, to your junior admirers?  In January:  what does “experiential learning” mean, and does it best fit after actual practice experience?  And in December, I posed these and other topics that provide the essential inspirations of NITA. 

Today, I report rather than reflect. Springing from my December points of inspiration, here are a few of our accomplishments during the first quarter of 2014.

  • Our founders. At our 2014 Annual Program Directors’ meeting in January, each PD was asked to narrate the first time they had a conversation about NITA. Their individual answers wove a web of dedication and community. Each had been personally recognized and handed on to NITA by a faculty member or founder, from which they grew into the NITA community. As more stories were added, the reverence in the room grew like a vision. The accomplishment? — A consolidated push to engage our entire network in searching for and handing forward the talent and potential talent that lives around us in all of our states. We need your to help find these lawyers who need to know NITA. Call your program director with your referrals. Call NITA too. They deserve to have you hand them the vision and benefit of NITA. We have energized the network: you are a vital part of it.
  • Our faculty. As new program directors gradually succeed to those who are ready to pass that torch, we welcome their dedication, talent, and new ideas. The NITA way of grooming the best trial skills faculty in the nation is to take what we have – the best – and keep it tip-top through both mutual efforts to improve individual teaching “in the moment,” and targeted efforts to add a few new faculty members each year. Emerging from this rigor of maintaining excellent teaching, sharing lecture and leadership roles, and coaching each other, future program directors emerge and will eventually lead the program with continuity and excellence. The accomplishment? — A concrete focus on recognizing that NITA in its next 40 years must and will continue to provide the best faculty in the field, faculty that are sharp, experienced, up-to-date, and innovative. NITA – bigger than each of us, made up of all of us.
  • Public service: As I mentioned in December, times change, and we change with it. Times in the economy have generated troubled times in serving justice where there are few means. Our founders’ vision of improving justice through the art of advocacy means that all of the advocates need to be brought to the table – those who represent paying clients and also those who represent clients without means or access to justice. Those who prosecute and those who defend. Everyone who stands up to oppose the other in our advocacy system of justice. The accomplishment? – We are growing The NITA Foundation by increasing its capacity to fund not only scholarships but also public service programs aimed at the lawyers who represent the underserved. We want to – we need to — find more ways to extend our work to these underserved lawyers. In 2014 you will see us test your capacity to help us reach donors:
    • Focusing on specific programs like the Child Advocacy program at Hofstra in late spring as moments when we must fund from our public service program funds and replenish those funds.
    • Welcoming gifts to the Annual Fund, which allow us flexibility to target an additional scholarship or additional support needed to run a public service program.
    • Special events! We are working on an exciting new type of event in a major city in October, an event that is both entertaining and essential to serving justice the NITA way. Watch for news of this; join our supporters of justice when we reach out to you.

As a zero-based budget organization, we cannot live beyond our means.  Our public service budget for 2014 is 17% higher than the donations received in 2013 – already a challenge. More to the point, we must set our 2015 budget another 50% higher than that.  We will do so if you show us now that we can budget for that higher capacity next year.  Our public service depends on it, in this economy.

In short, we have a strong performance in the first quarter. We have a bigger-than-ever financial need for public service work. And we have built and are already walking concrete paths to expand our enrollments through your networking, continue grooming the best trial advocacy faculties in the nation, and support justice broadly by reaching all lawyers.

I hope you will write to me, and comment on our blog where my ED letters are posted.



Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President & Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

February 2014 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA Alums Share Something Special

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Lockwood_KarenA lawyer at a large firm in Chicago snapped his attention from drafting at his desk to a vague spot on the wall opposite. His mind raced around that same loop: his trial—the first one he would first chair—was only two months off. No, he had not neglected his trial prep. His team was ready with proposed trial exhibits, the graphics for the economic expert were in final design, the handful of dispositive motions to narrow the issues would be argued in a month. His team was poised to then submit written motions in limine. The office preparation matched the timeline.

He looked up because, for the third time, he could not control his respiration rate as he contemplated delivering the opening. He could not get a bead on the approach to cross for three witnesses. And he just knew he would lag in confidence as he stood in the well of the courtroom. He had little direct trial experience—his advocacy work had been in motion hearings, trial-type administrative hearings, and as second chair taking a trial witness or two as assigned. And he felt rusty. “Well,” he said, “there has to be a first time.”

NITA alums share the assurance that they already met their “first time.” They confronted and conquered these same fears earlier, along with other NITA learners, when a client’s matter was not at risk, and when plenty of seasoned trial faculty were attentive with critiques, coaching, and support focused on each person. Whatever the new trial challenges they will meet, they will never again suffer the lead-foot, memory-erasing loss of confidence about guiding the trial and performing their advocacy.

What Else Alums Share
NITA Alums share more, too. When they look across the courtroom, they recognize other lawyers to be advocates who also learned trial skills at NITA.

More than this, they share a fondness for the memory of that NITA week even ten years later. They know that a colleague who took the NITA trial program five years earlier feels the same way. After whatever program, whenever performed, the alum understands its transformative power. And the alum knows that the other NITA alum across the courtroom feel the same way.

Now to my “special” point. NITA alums want to tell about their experience. They want to pass the secret on and invite someone they think is special to do NITA.

And so I conclude with my news: NITA Program Directors in programs around the country gather annually to plan and share their insights. This year, they are reaching out within their regions, and asking you to reach out too, to lawyers who should attend NITA now.

  • Spreading the word means taking someone by the hand who is ready for this transformation, and asking them to sign up. You mean a lot to that person, and your NITA connection is special.
  • Spreading the word means taking what you want to tell about your experience and actually sharing it.
  • Spreading the word means making connections with other alums and remembering about your NITA experiences.

Sure, the Program Director in your area is the person who led the entire program as “dean,” as top coach, as master demonstrator, as chief cheerleader—as organizing advocate for your learning. But your faculty feels as strongly. And your colleagues in the program do. More than that—you know others who have done NITA but you have never introduced the conversation. Ask them! Find them! And when you find people who have not had the NITA experience, tell them about yours and the difference it made.

NITA alum share something special. I am asking you to share it when you speak with others. Invite them in. The stronger they are, the more they gain from NITA. We welcome all—the most inclusive “tribe” in America.




Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President & Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

Karen M. Lockwood

December 2012 Executive Director’s Letter: You Say Good-Bye, and I Say Hello . . . (Feel the Beat)

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Karen M. Lockwood

Whether you remember the Beatles’ song, or you remember John Baker’s ED Letter in November’s NITA Notes, you will know this:  John has wistfully said good-bye as NITA’s Executive Director. Thank you, John, for your terrific service.

And I say hello – hello from our staff of 32, and hello from me personally to each of you.

May we impress you with a few 2012 data points about NITA?

  • 5000 attorneys trained in public, custom and public service programs
  • 59 public programs across the nation
  • 125 custom programs for agencies, firms, and entities
  • 24 public service programs
  • 10 international programs
  • 750 superb selected trial lawyers, judges, and professors teaching in our programs
  • 3 Next Generation award winners to teach in public programs
  • Many newly released print publications
  • 59 videos – some NITA classics – posted for downloading on studio71
  • 20+ e-Books!  On Amazon and iTunes, ready for your e-reader to notate, highlight, and personally index
  • ** First Ever!  Enhanced e-book you can WATCH – The Effective Deposition. Stay i-tuned . . . .
  • 161 scholarships for public-service and need-based applicants to learn-by-doing with us
  • 13 law firm, foundation, and organizational donations to the NITA Foundation
  • 139 individual and firm donors to the NITA Foundation as of this writing

Feel the beat as we enter 2013.  We have two pillars of NITA that orient much of what we do:  Learning-by-Doing, and Trial Advocacy.

Under the first pillar, we work amid a changing environment wherein law schools – and colleges – flock to their new imperative of integrated learning. This is a concept and practice that NITA’s founders invented 41 years ago. Our program clients have practiced this with us over the years. NITA has much to contribute.

Under the second pillar of Trial Advocacy, we write and teach advocacy amid a change in the balance among venues where advocacy takes place.  Though that change is blamed perhaps on the recession, it is now and will remain a force in the practice of law.

What implications and opportunities flow from these dynamic environments is our key question for 2013. We have the right stakeholders to draw together in examining that question:  faculty, authors, program clients, Board members and founders, who work on a long tradition of creating collaborative and inventive NITA practices.  And we have the right staff – committed, imaginative, eager, skilled, poised for the charge forward.

I invite all of our stakeholders to contribute with NITA to this growth.  Our mission, to advance justice by training an ever-more-ready bar of ethical and highly skilled trial advocates, will gain and excel in this changing environment.  I say hello, . . . hello, hello (feel the beat).





Karen M. Lockwood