2014 EATS @ Stetson has come and gone. But we bloggers don't stop between conferences. If there's an advocacy topic you want to see discussed, or about which you wish to contribute, contact one of the blog administrators - see the list on the right side of this page. Lonely thinking changes nothing, sharing your thoughts may start a trend..

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 EATS Retrospective

This morning, I said goodbye to a group of old and new advocacy teaching friends on the patio of the Rum Runner bar on St. Pete beach at 3:30 am, slept a few fitful hours, woke up, packed, and left Gulfport and Stetson behind me for another year. I'm tired--as a middle-aged man, late nights exact a harsher toll than they did when I was younger--but I can sleep on the plane or when I get back to Illinois. The conversations, companionship, and camaraderie were well worth the price of temporary sleep deprivation.

In his concluding remarks to the 2015 Educating Advocates/Teaching Skills Conference, Charlie Rose talked about how the conference had recharged his depleted set of mental and emotional batteries. I am reasonably confident his sentiments were shared by most attendees, but I am 100% certain that he spoke for me. The phenomenon occurs every year at the conference as we listen to gifted teachers and advocates share the science and art of teaching others what it means to be an advocate.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Judge Robert McGahey of Denver submitted the following guest post:

I've subscribed to The New Yorker for years and read it cover-to-cover when I get it. The articles that are directly about the law and the legal process are frequently insightful and thought-provoking, especially those by Jeffrey Toobin.  But every now and then there's an article that's not directly related to the law that has application to advocacy or advocacy teaching.  I'd like to call your attention to two such recent articles.

In the March 9, 2015 issue there's an article titled "Frame of Reference", written by the inimitable John McPhee, one of my favorite authors.  McPhee writes on a myriad of subjects and his economical but stylish writing is always a treat.  This article discuss the fact that different people understand – or don't understand -- what someone is talking  or writing about depending on the listener's  or reader's frame of reference.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Judge Robert McGahey submitted the following post:

About ten days back, Chris posted a very thoughtful piece (link here) which was inspired by an article in Politico. I read that article and would offer these comments as both a judge and a teacher.

In addition to teaching Trial Advocacy courses, I also helm the Judicial Externship Seminar at DU Law School.  Per the ABA, every judicial externship requires an academic component, and that's my task.  I try to focus on issues that aren't always talked about in law school and the last class session always focuses on the how judges are selected, and the influence of politics and money on judicial decisions. I tell the students that the class is about the value of an independent judiciary in a free society – and I have them watch Judgment at Nuremberg to see how perverted a justice system can become. Knowing that some students will poo-poo the movie with "it can't happen here," I assign as extra reading articles like the one in Politico, as well as cases like Caperton v. Massey.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

If Justice is for Sale, Does Advocacy Even Matter?

I had an interesting telephone conversation with my good friend Joshua Karton a couple of days ago. He wanted to know whether I thought online advocacy classes would push budding advocates further away from the human connection in the courtroom that is such a vital component of the trial advocate's art. He spoke of the relentless forces that already hinder access to courtrooms and wondered whether technology is becoming yet another barrier to justice for the poor and the powerless.

Last summer, I taught an online advocacy course. I intend to write more about that experience in an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, I must admit that my conversation with Joshua caused me to take a mental step back and try to see the big picture of the adversary trial system and identify the forces that might interfere with the search for truth and justice. 

This afternoon, I read an article in Politico Magazine online that gave me pause. In the article, I Was Alabama's Top Judge. I'm Ashamed by What I Had to Do to Get There: How Money is Ruining America's Courts. Sue Bell Cobb, a former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court writes about the corrupting influence of campaign donations on the justice system. She asks a provocative question: "How do we convince Americans that justice isn't for sale--when in 39 states, it is?"

Monday, March 2, 2015

Perception and Persuasion: Musings on How the First Affects the Second

One of my research assistants dropped by my office this morning so I could sign her time sheet. We spent a few minutes discussing work and life. Knowing that I am not always aware of current cyberspace events that are common knowledge to Millennials, she recommended that I take a couple of minutes and look up the online controversy about the white and gold dress. A quick Google search took me to this New York Times story entitled Is That Dress White and Gold or Blue and Black?

For those of you who were, like me, heretofore unaware of the controversy, it involves the impact of perception on determining the color of a dress in a photograph. Some people believe it is white and gold in dark shadow, and others believe it is blue and black washed out in bright light.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Cosmic Whack on the Side of Mark Caldwell's Head

Reading Chris Behan's recent blog post provided the sense of guilt he had hoped to achieve. My lack of recent writing was more a function of the absence of a creative thought about advocacy teaching these past months. Over the years I found that much of what is new in advocacy teaching is really not "new" but a variation on a theme. I look back at many of the things I use that colleagues call innovative and realize these ideas came from sources outside the law but within the teaching and coaching communities. Sadly, I confess that many of my forehead slapping realizations came from observing what gifted teachers and sports coaches do as they work in elementary and secondary schools. These are not new ideas but adaptations of the successes of others.

I write today about my most recent "whack on the side of the head." Sometimes the most effective teaching comes not from the instructor but the student. I know this may sound heretical but it really is based on sound educational principles.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Telling Case Stories in Social Media: Do We Teach This? Should We?

From Judge Bob McGahey of Denver:
A recent article in the New York Times caught my attention enough that I forwarded it to a number of my advocacy teacher friends, especially those interested in storytelling in the courtroom. (link: http://nyti.ms/1EGD8Z4.) The article discusses how the explosion of social media and online access to court filings is changing the way some pleadings are drafted: "Now some plaintiffs' lawyers, calculating that they will be protected from defamation suits when making charges in civil complaints, distribute the first filings online as a way of controlling the narrative." It was that phrase "controlling the narrative" that really jumped out at me. That impacts on ideas of storytelling.