Thursday, May 8, 2008

The NITA Method in Action

by Steve Gibson

As NITA's Chief Operating Officer, it's my continuing privilege to visit NITA programs across the country and see the NITA method in action. After conversations with dozens of our faculty, I couldn't help but observe an interesting, and consistent, paradox: While the NITA method, with its focus on the student rather than the teacher, is explicitly not about the faculty member, the faculty also benefit greatly from the interaction.

What it comes down to, from my view, is the answers to two related questions. When asked what they like best about teaching, most faculty (and all of our best faculty) suggest that it has to do with the satisfaction of seeing the attorneys they work with improve and expand their skills - sometimes over the course of years, as NITA relationships so often carry-over beyond the time of the program itself. At the same time, when asked why they teach, most faculty (and, again, virtually all of our best), recognize that it is because through teaching they become better lawyers themselves, learning from the critiques they provide, the insights of other faculty and, not surprisingly, from the students, who often are skilled attorneys in their own right.

Not to put too philosophical an edge on things, but perhaps it is this duality of student focused process leading to improvement for both the faculty and the student that engenders the loyalty to NITA and connection to their chosen profession I see in so many of our dedicated volunteer faculty. The contrast to a typical lecture-and-listen program, where the attendees may learn but the lecturer receives little more than ego gratification (and, often, a paycheck), could not be clearer.

Seen in this light, the connections between the values at NITA's core—things like improving justice, a sense of community and personal connection, and giving back—and the very nature of what NITA is becomes clear. Given the sacrifices in family and professional time that our faculty make to teach, NITA really must be something more than just another CLE program. And I'm pleased to say that, from what I've seen, it certainly is.

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