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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Learning from the Best: how to become a better Advocacy Teacher

Dear friends:

The bells are ringing in Edinburgh this morning, calling the people to church. It is a crisp spring Sunday morning and I am writing to you from the offices of the Law Society of Scotland where I have been blessed to spend the last three days teaching with a phenomenal group of NITA instructors - American, Scottish, and Irish in the 2011 NITA Advanced Advocacy Skills Programme. We transition tomorrow to another program where will train the trainers and I wanted to take a moment to share some observations with you about a small revelation that I have had the last three days.

First things first, if you have not done NITA training in your quest to become a better advocacy teacher then get your self down to one post haste. There is immense value in their approach, but even more importantly, there is phenomenal value in the people that teach their programs. The quality of what they know, their willingness to share it, and the fellowship that comes from experiencing NITA training is a gift that each of us should give ourselves. I hope that you will do so - it is a tool that you absolutely should have in your bag of tricks for teaching lawyers and students.

I must share with you the great joy that I had in being allowed to teach with some true giants of NITA teachers - Professor Paula Casey from Arkansas, Micheal H. Ginsberg from Jones Day, Professor Michael Johnson from Mississippi, THE Ben Rubinowitz and the awesome Elizabeth J. Sher. To watch each of these folks teach is a masters class in how to do it. I spent a great deal of time taking notes, listening, and thinking about how I might become a better teacher from this opportunity.

The UK faculty include Frank Mulholland, QC and the Solicitor General of Scotland, Gillian More, Fiona Donnelly, Pino Di Emidio, Andrew Ireland, Mike Jones QC, Murray Macara QC, and Barra McGrory QC. Each of them taught me something new about how to teach, and why to teach it. It is so interesting to watch those from another country engage in our craft. Some things truly are universal and that gives me comfort, others are not, and that makes me laugh. those of you who know me understand just how much I like to do the latter.

As I taught with, and listened to, these masters of their craft I was struck with the realization that there is a central theme for what makes them so very good at what they do - they are connected to themselves in a very real and positive way. They know who they are, what they stand for, and how they operate. Sometimes this seems to be a conscious choice on their parts, at other times it looks like just an organic reflection of who they are. But what is across the board phenomenal is that each of them connects with students because they are connected to what makes them unique as individuals and advocates. They accept the human nature of what we teach and allow themselves, their true self, to come through in their teaching.

This vulnerability is really a strength, and it creates a great deal of acceptance and willingness to learn on the part of the participants. They see instructors that are personable, engaging, and most importantly - genuine.

I think that a willingness to be yourself, to expose your character to others, to be vulnerable in the moment as you teach guarantees acceptance of the message.

Imagine that, by making ourselves vulnerable we make ourselves stronger as teachers. Who would have thought it?

All the best,


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