Thursday, August 28, 2008

NITA: A Worthwhile Investment

A recent Nationals participant wrote of her experiences after attending NITA’s flagship program. Christina M. Sonsire, Esq. , a personal injury & malpractice attorney at Ziff, Weiermiller, Hayden & Mustico, LLP in Elmira, New York, said it eloquently: NITA is a “worthwhile investment”. Read up on her impressions of the program here:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gaining Consensus and Approval for NITA Programs at Your Firm

Guest Blogger: Thomas Hintz, NITA In-House Sales

With the multiple “internal clients” typically involved in the review of new training programs, the approval process for new training initiatives can be challenging. This challenge is compounded by the fact that these internal clients have distinct and sometimes conflicting priorities. The purpose of this whitepaper is to provide checklists that enable you to concisely outline and explain the benefits of NITA training to your primary internal clients.

The two key constituencies in the review and approval of new training programs are typically the Associate Committee (or whatever sounding board that exists for addressing associate needs) and Firm Management (or whoever approves your request for increased budget).

Your internal clients have discrete reasons for supporting new training initiatives. These differences should be reflected when proposing new approaches to these two groups.

Following below is a simple and unique methodology for presenting the value proposition to your primary internal clients:

The Associate Perspective

NITA In-House Programs give associates the opportunity to not only improve their skills and confidence, but also meet and develop relationships with partners (who help NITA faculty critique workshop performances). NITA clients report a reinvigorated feeling of esprit de corps within the organization after our training programs.

Four top line benefits of NITA training:

– Great Training From Great Teachers
NITA faculty who teach at our In-House Programs are NITA’s very best. They have years of experience teaching at our public programs and for In-House clients. They have received consistently outstanding reviews from both program participants and other NITA faculty. They know how “to do”. More importantly they know how to teach the skills and advise NITA participants how to develop them.

– Career Development Plan
Whether an associate plans to be with your firm for the next 30 years or 30 months she needs to develop the core competencies to achieve her aspirations as a litigator. NITA is the most highly regarded provider of deposition and oral advocacy skills training. Our workshop programs emulate real life environments where associates can practice and develop key litigation skills in a safe environment. We encourage participants to stretch and try newly learned techniques. This learning- by-doing approach works. We have 30 years of testimonial letters to prove it (some from partners at your firm).

– Opportunities and confidence for more challenging work assignments
NITA In-House Programs have multiple workshop sessions where associates are reviewed and critiqued on performances and given the opportunity to build skills. This training structure enables participants to develop confidence in their ability to take on more challenging work. This confidence is also needed to go to partners to request the opportunity to take on the added responsibility.

– Opportunity to develop relationships within firm
The team approach needed to complete assignments in law firms makes it difficult for associates at similar experience levels to work with other partners in the firm. In addition, there are limited chances to develop relationships with peers.

Firm Management Perspective

Recognizing the need to tailor your budget proposal to address the unique priorities of your target audience (including articulating job satisfaction gains and ROI computations) increases the effectiveness of any proposal. Positioning your proposal so that it addresses key concerns of both end users and management is very important.

Three top line points:

– Provides recruiting advantage
There are very few law students interviewing for a position as an associate who don’t ask the question: “What type of training am I going to get with the firm?”

The integration of NITA In-House Programs helps to define the commitment firm management places on the development of the core skills needed by associates.

– Supports retention strategy
One reason associates leave a firm is the lack of opportunity for more challenging work assignments. NITA skills development programs address one of the barriers to being assigned higher profile work. Our programs develop confidence associates need to perform and just as importantly lobby partners to be given the chance.

– Business Development
Every law firm has clients interested in moving to an alternative billing approach. One way to make non-traditional billing approach profitable is to push the responsibility for an assignment to a lower pay grade.

NITA training programs help develop the confidence needed for work to be assigned to less experienced associates. These people need to develop the confidence in less experienced attorneys in order to excel at their chosen profession.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Best Practice: Winning Trial Strategies–Having a Realistic Goal

Guest Blogger: Glenn Bradford of Glenn E. Bradford and Associates PC in Kansas City, Missouri

An English lady once asked the Lord Chief Justice of England to explain what the necessary elements to win a case were. He replied, “First you need a good case, then you need good evidence, then you need good witnesses, then you need a good judge and then you need a good jury, and then you need good luck.” ( Frances L. Wellman, Success in Court 96 The Macmillan Company 1941)

The first point that ought to be made in any article discussing trial practice is that, in truth, a trial lawyer has only limited control over the outcome of any given trial. Indeed, it has been written that "[t]he British bar seems fairly well agreed” that "[o]f every hundred cases, ninety win themselves, three are won by advocacy, and seven are lost by advocacy."

The best example of the limitations inherent on a trial lawyer might be the career of Abraham Lincoln. Although widely acclaimed during his legal career, Lincoln's courtroom record did not seem to be particularly outstanding, even with his reputation as the “best all-round jury lawyer of his day in Illinois.” (Albert A. Woldman, Lawyer Lincoln 241 Carroll & Graff Publishers, Inc., 1936)

Of 87 cases for which the records are available and that Lincoln tried before the court without a jury, decrees were rendered in favor of his clients in 40 and against them in 47. Of 82 actions argued before a jury, verdicts favorable to his clients were returned in 43. (Albert A. Woldman, Lawyer Lincoln 241 Carroll & Graff Publishers, Inc., 1936)

Lincoln’s legal career is proof of the proposition that brains, talent, experience, preparation, and a compelling personality do not guarantee perennial success in the courtroom. In the author’s experience, effective trial lawyers start with the concept of respecting the facts of the case and respecting the intelligence of the jury. The quickest way to lose a case is to try to oversell it. New York lawyer Francis L. Wellman had these observations:

There is a fine art in never overstating a case; for if the evidence turns out to be stronger than the (opening) statement, the advocate is sure to secure credit for his candor and modesty. He should avoid, therefore, all exaggerations. Facts should expand on the trial rather than diminish in force. (Francis L. Wellman, Success in Court 137 The Macmillan Company 1941)

Clients tend to want to hit a home run in every case. Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs but he also struck out 1,330 times, which was the major league record for many years. Putting litigation in a baseball context, perhaps the wise lawyer will seek to convince the client that it is important to hit what is pitched. Every pitch cannot be hit for a home run. Sometimes it’s better to try for a base hit rather than waste an opportunity trying to do something that cannot be done.

Former Chief Mediator of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Frank J. Scardilli, put it well, saying “[t]he lawyer must be an agent of reality to the client” (Robert D. Rachlin, Esq., Seven Habits of Effective Lawyers, Vermont Bar Journal, Summer 2007, at 25) and “this implies respect for economic realities, as well as an awareness of the legally achievable.” (Robert D. Rachlin, Esq., Seven Habits of Effective Lawyers, Vermont Bar Journal, Summer 2007, at 25)

Every plaintiff’s case is not a multi-million dollar verdict waiting to happen. Every defense case is not potentially a defense verdict or an acquittal. Don’t squander what you do have to work with trying to get a result that realistically cannot be secured. Make something out of what you have to work with.

Noted New York lawyer Emory R. Bucker once said: “The greatest compliment a trial lawyer who has won can receive is to have the jury think and say afterwards that the defeated side had a better lawyer but the successful side had a better case.” (Francis L. Wellman, Success in Court 349 The MacMillan Company 1941)