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Friday, April 25, 2014

Teaching with NITA: A Report from the Rocky Mountain Basic Trial Program

Suparna Malempati is the Director of Advocacy Programs at Atlanta's John Marshall Law School. From time to time, she guest blogs for us. In this blog, she shares her recent experience teaching in a NITA program. I wholeheartedly endorse all she has to say about teaching with NITA, and I recommend the experience for anyone who loves trial advocacy, teaching, learning, and having fun with a great group of people.

The end of an enriching work trip is often bittersweet. On the one hand, you are glad to be home to familiar surroundings and the routine of daily life. On the other hand, you miss the intellectual challenge of being in the company of highly accomplished professionals. I certainly felt that way after four days of teaching with NITA at the Rocky Mountain Basic Trial Program.

I had wanted to teach with NITA for years. I am not entirely sure how I finally ended up on the roster, but I am grateful to Mark Caldwell for allowing me the opportunity. The program was extremely organized and well-run.

I was asked by a few people whether it met my expectations. But before I arrived in Boulder, I truly was not focused on what the experience would be like for me. I was primarily concerned with my own preparation. I reviewed all my notes from the NITA teacher training, I re-read Steven Lubet’s book, I watched all the NITA webcasts, and of course, I read the problem. I wanted to make a good impression and I wanted to impart something useful on the participants. And I hope I did.

The program was designed to provide maximum time for participants to be on their feet executing skills, while allowing for continuous faculty feedback. The pace of each day was constant with very little down time. Students received oral feedback from at least two faculty members, individual feedback on their videos, and one-on-one time with a faculty member to repeat the skill. Organization of all the moving parts was tremendous and effective.

What impressed me as well was the camaraderie among the faculty and the sincerity with which they all approached their task. Our common goal was to impart useful advice, skills, and tips to new lawyers to help them improve their trial techniques. Each and every faculty member brought a unique perspective, but shared the desire that the students grow from their participation in the program. The students were also sincere and eager to learn. The combination of exceptional faculty and earnest students made the experience phenomenal.

Moreover, I learned a great deal from my colleagues. Trial lawyers do not mind when other trial lawyers use their material – we permissibly steal from each other. I am renewed and excited to continue teaching trial skills and advocacy. And if it is not completely obvious, I thought the program was fantastic.

--Suparna Malempati

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