Thinking about being a better teacher in a changing landscape for law schools, helping your adjuncts to do a better job, taking part in another competition? Turn that thinking into action by attending EATS 2014, Stetson, May 20-22, and be home for the Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Judge McGahey on Dramatic Trial Lawyers

Judge Robert McGahey of Denver, Colorado, is a frequent guest blogger. He is also a NITA faculty member and an adjunct professor at Denver University's Sturm College of Law. Prior to ascending the bench, Judge McGahey was a trial lawyer. And as a movie buff with an encyclopedic knowledge of movies about the law, he knows a thing or two about drama.

Why are trial lawyers so dramatic?
  • We’re all roosters; we think the sun comes up because we crow. If you look at what we do, it takes a fair amount of ego. Our job is to convince six or twelve people that we’re never going to see again that what we are telling them is the truth – and then getting them to act on that truth. That requires a substantial level of self-possession and self-confidence. The danger comes when we forget that this isn’t about us; it’s about our clients. Far too many of us lose sight of that. When we do, we lose that “genuineness” or “authenticity” that others have remarked on. 

Why Are Lawyers So Dramatic: The Sequel

Since posting about dramatic lawyers yesterday, I've received some thought-provoking emails from friends. I thought I'd follow up on the post with some additional thoughts.

First, to those of you who commented favorably on my new status as a centerfold, especially given my age, girth, and so forth: Thank you. It is heartening to know that we centerfolds have supportive networks of friends and family who will be with us throughout the process.

Second, on the subject of drama, my friend and colleague Tom Leggans provided some great insight. Tom is an Assistant United States Attorney and a member of our trial advocacy faculty at SIU School of Law. He is a phenomenal trial lawyer and teacher. Here are Tom's thoughts:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Are Lawyers So Dramatic? Musings on a Windy March Morning

A few months ago, my university selected me for inclusion in our Chancellor's annual report on faculty activities. It's a glossy marketing magazine intended to highlight the exciting and innovative things being done throughout the world by our faculty.  I was selected because I had just finished testifying before a Department of Defense panel on the problem of sexual assault in the military.

My write-up in the annual report, however, had almost nothing to do with my testimony before the DoD panel. Instead, it focused on my work as an advocacy teacher. A university photographer came and photographed me during a trial team practice session. Superimposed over the photograph is the language: You're an expert in military law. You've advised the Department of Defense on military law and taught criminal law in the JAG School. How do you prepare your students for life and death moments in the courtroom?

 As a brief aside, my associate dean pointed out that my photo-spread is actually the centerfold of the magazine. This is a position I never thought I'd occupy in any magazine format. If you know me (bald guy with red-and-white striped tie), I'll bet you never thought I'd be a centerfold either. Sometimes our lives take unexpected turns.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Walk Softly for a Giant has Passed....

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

It is 6 in the morning here in Glasgow, Scotland, and as the sun rises over the city I am preparing for another day of teaching advocacy in Strathclyde’s Advocacy LLM program run by Dame Elish Angiolini, the principle of St. Hugh’s College in Oxford. I get to spend a day working with lawyers who want to become better advocates in the courtroom and I count myself blessed to have this special time with them. It is a blessing to do what we do with others who care as deeply as we do about that precious mix of hard work and talent necessary to create ethical, competent and compassionate advocates who fiercely fight for the rights of their clients. 

While my body is here is Glasgow, I find that my heart left sometime on Friday, making its way through those paths known only to our inner most selves to Philadelphia where folks are gathering to grieve the passing of a true teacher of teachers and master trial lawyer - Eddie Ohlbaum. To those of you who have not heard, Eddie passed away recently after putting up the good fight against cancer. I wanted to share with all of you in our community the information Sarah Jacobson has provided:

Dear all,

This is an email I never wanted to have to send.  It is with a deep and abiding sadness that I write to inform you that yesterday, following a brief, fierce battle with cancer, my mentor and our friend, Eddie Ohlbaum passed away.  This may come as a shock to some of you who did not know he was ill.  Eddie did not want many people to know that he was sick, so that fact was generally kept quiet.  No one will appreciate more than this group to hear that although this week was our Spring Break and his health rapidly declined in the past seven days, Eddie was at the Law School every day-coaching trial team students on evidentiary issues; working on case theory with our NTC squad; and up until the end, arguing with doctors that he was not going to the hospital because he was going to Texas in two weeks.

But he won't.

Information about services and Shiva are below, solely for the convenience of those who might want to send his wife, Karyn, a card, but there is no expectation that any of you step out of your life to travel to Philly.  Forgive me if I've missed people who would want to know about Eddie's passing.  Please forward the information on to others who should be told.  I started here, with the list of people he initially solicited for revisions to his Model Rules of Ethics, as you seemed the right people to tell.  Separate from the below, eventually there will be a Trial Ad or Trial Team scholarship set up here in Eddie's name.  I'll make sure to get that information to you when we have it.

Funeral services in Eddie's memory will take place on Sunday morning, March 16th, at 9:30 AM in the Sanctuary at Congregation Beth Am Israel - 1301 Hagys Ford Road in Penn Valley. Burial will follow at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, NY.  Shiva will be observed at Karyn's home - 1205 Hagys Ford Road in Penn Valley - Monday through Thursday evenings at 7:30 each evening.  The family requests that contributions in Eddie's memory be directed toward The Innocence Project at Temple Law School [ http://www.innocenceprojectpa.org/waystohelp/default.asp] and/or The Support Center for Child Advocates [http://www.advokid.org ].
Today at Temple our hearts our a little heavier, and our courtrooms a little darker.
Holding you each in my thoughts,


Sara Jacobson
Director of Trial Advocacy Programs and Associate Professor
Temple University, Beasley School of Law
1719 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
(215) 204-0661

Over the next few months I am sure many of us will gather together, in large groups and small, to share memories of this brilliant man and phenomenal friend. 

Cary Bricker and Jay Leach out at McGeorge will have a silent memorial and moment of silence and gratitude on behalf of Eddie at their Ethics competition this spring. 

At Stetson our EATS conference is going to give out an annual award for the coach who embodies Eddie’s legacy of fierce ethical advocacy. We will also acknowledge his passing during our conference. For those of you who may not know, Eddie was one of the founding members of law professors who joined together to begin the EATS conference years ago. I called him up with the crazy idea of the need for a true community of advocacy coaches and teachers and he immediately came on board with ideas of how to make it even better. How quintessentially Eddie.

I am sure I join all of you in acknowledging the tremendous void his passing leaves. In times like these we can only do what we can do. I for one just wanted to share the deep sadness and love that fills my heart when I think of his absence. Now I am going to go and do what Eddie would do and teach some students.

All the best,


Monday, February 17, 2014

A New Genre of Mock Trial Competitions: A Guest Commentary

Suparna Malempati, Director of Advocacy Programs at Atlanta's John Marshall Law School, contributed the following guest commentary about a recent small-scale interschool mock trial competition. I've blogged about this new style of competition (link here) in the past, and so have others (links here, here and here). The bottom line is that you can provide a superior competitive advocacy teaching experience for your students, free from the things that make many large-scale regional or national competitions unpleasant, if you find a couple of like-minded trial directors at other schools and plan your own competition.

A new genre of mock trial competitions has begun, and I am fortunate to be a part.  My mock trial team recently attended a wonderful competition hosted by the Southern Illinois University Law School.  This competition was the result of a unique collaboration between SIU, Northern Illinois University, and Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School.  Interschool mock trial competitions are a growing trend, one which provides great experience and fun.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Court of Public Opinion and a Court of Law: A Link to a Provocative Article

The Honorable Robert McGahey, of Denver, Colorado, often contributes guest pieces to this blog. He forwarded the following commentary and link about the difference between trying cases in a courtroom and in the "court of public opinion."

Dahlia Lithwick writes on the law and legal issues for Slate, an online magazine.  Her articles are always thoughtful and perceptive and frequently provocative as well.  She recently contributed an article comparing how the public is conditioned to examine legal matters in the public forum versus how such matters are actually examined in the courtroom – and the issues, problems and dangers presented by those differences. I was particularly struck by her discussion of why the presentation of evidence in court using techniques of examination and rules of evidence and procedure offer protections for not just the individual on trial, but for the greater community.  The piece is well worth reading, especially as a reminder of how – and why – the process by which we resolve things in court is a fundamental component of the rule of law. I commend it to you.

Judge McGahey

We Can’t Try the Woody Allen Sex Abuse Case in the Court of Public Opinion

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Announcing 2014 Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching Advocacy

Dear Colleagues:

This year when we gather in Gulfport for EATS we will honor a great teacher and even better friend. He will join the ranks of other distinguished recipients of this award, including Terry MacCarthy, Thomas Mauet, Warren Wolfson, Barbara Bergman, Jim Seckinger, Eddie Ohlbaum and Susan Poehls.
This year's recipient is Stetson's own Professor Emeritus Bill Eleazer. Here is the press release:

Professor Emeritus William Eleazer selected for Stetson’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching Advocacy

GULFPORT, Fla. Professor Emeritus William Eleazer has been selected to receive Stetson University’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching Advocacy on May 21 on the Gulfport campus.