As I have nearly every January since 1985, I traveled to New York City to teach at the Benajmin N. Cardozo School of Law Intensive Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP) on January 7-10. ITAP, a cornerstone of Cardozo’s practical skills curriculum, is a two week immersion course where students learn cutting edge strategies for courtroom litigation using the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) model. In a “master class” approach to learning, students practice direct and cross-examinations, interviewing and preparing witnesses, selecting juries, dealing with evidentiary issues, and preparing for and presenting bench and jury trials.
ITAP is an opportunity for me to give back to the legal community by helping students learn how to be trial lawyers. Even if they ultimately choose not to be litigators, the skills these students learn translate to a variety of legal disciplines, and make them better lawyers across the board.
This year, in addition to my usual duties as a classroom leader, I reprised my role cross-examining a police witness in a demonstration before the entire program. These demonstrations serve to showcase specific skills — in this case advanced direct and cross-examination — the students will be practicing the following day.
Of course, this is also an opportunity for me to catch up with former classmates and colleagues. The faculty includes local New York area trial lawyers, state and federal judges, prosecutors and defenders, along with state and federal judges and experienced lawyers from across the country (and the world!) who, like me, volunteer for four day stints. Spending these four days immersed in trial tactics and techniques, and exploring sometimes complicated evidentiary issues, always has something of a rejuvenating effect on me. Not only do I need to be on my game to keep up with these earnest, eager students, but the process of teaching basic trial skills forces me back to roots of my own trial practice. I invariably leave ITAP energized, with new takes on my cases; not to mention replete with the sights, sounds and foods of New York!