The NITA Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to providing resources to fulfill NITA's mission of public service to the legal community. Since 2003, it has disbursed over $3.25 million to support NITA's programs and to offer scholarship assistance to worthy applicants working with the underserved and historically disenfranchised populations. None of this would be possible without the support of its loyal donors.
Robert VanderLaan, known to his friends and colleagues as "Rob" or "Bob" hailed from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was a gifted lawyer who tried both civil and criminal cases. He was a master teacher of trial advocacy; a facilitator; a negotiator; and a relentless advocate for his clients. He was tenacious and fearless in the face of virtually any challenge. His passion for helping others permeated every facet of his life. Whether he was coaching basketball, mentoring his daughters, or teaching trial skills to NITA students (something he did for nearly thirty-five (35) years), his energy knew no bounds. His warmth and his charm were legendary and his spirit was downright infectious. Rob also had the rare quality of understanding that with his gifts came the responsibility to share them. He shared those gifts constantly, freely, with all who were interested, near and far. He shaped literally thousands of lawyers helping them at programs where he taught to improve as trial lawyers. Those fortunate enough to encounter Bob as an instructor became better trial lawyers by leaps and bounds. Those who taught with Bob, became better instructors. And those who knew Bob as a friend were better people because of that friendship.
The Robert VanderLaan Memorial Scholarship shall be awarded annually to one student and will provide tuition, travel and lodging to a NITA program at which Bob taught. The Scholarship will honor and salute the memory of Bob, who was an iconic teacher in the history of learning by doing. By awarding this Scholarship to students who have exhibited a passion for improving their trial advocacy skills, with preference given to students who cannot otherwise afford to attend a NITA Program, this Scholarship will reflect and maintain the NITA values that Bob Vanderlaan held dear to his heart. The scholarship application process, award, and distributions shall follow NITA's current internal scholarship policies and procedure.
Honorable Jim Carrigan
One of NITA’s founders and brilliant lawyer, judge, and leader, Jim Carrigan, passed away in 2014. Jim was described as a remarkable human in all aspects of his life. If you ever had the chance to meet Jim Carrigan, consider yourself lucky to have been in the presence of such a humble, respected, kind, and educated man. To view a beautifully written obituary about Judge Carrigan, click here.
Throughout his work in private practice, being a law professor, and becoming a U.S. district court judge, Carrigan’s professional accomplishments are highly known and respected. He paired this with his love for education, love for Colorado, and most especially love for his family to leave a lasting mark on people’s lives and on the legal community.
Established in 2012, the NITA Foundation holds a scholarship fund named the Jim & Bev Carrigan Scholarship, which funds an annual scholarship to a trial skills program.
Jo Ann Harris
Along with being a NITA Board of Trustee and faculty member, Jo Ann Harris was so many other things to so many people—friend, teacher, mentor, and advocate. In her practice, Jo Ann excelled with talent, leadership, and strong resolve to do the right things the right way. Her service as Assistant Attorney General at DOJ and throughout her career as a trial lawyer accentuated her keen eye for service to the public interest in justice.
Jo Ann was one of the greatest supporters of NITA’s public service efforts. She focused not only on tribal justice systems, but also on training lawyers to deal with domestic violence and immigration issues. JoAnn’s thoughtful and committed performance as a proponent of the work of the NITA Foundation guided NITA for years.
On top of her successful professional career she always made time volunteering and devoting her time to the worthiest of causes. To honor JoAnn’s memory, the NITA Foundation invites you to make a gift in her honor under the name of the JoAnn Harris Public Service Memorial.
Jim Jeans was one of NITA’s pioneers, a lawyer well-known for his brilliant storytelling and teaching style. Professor Jim Jeans was a member of the original NITA faculty at the 1972 National Program, along with Pren Marshall, Jim Carrigan and Bob Keeton and remained a steadfast NITA faculty member and supporter until his passing. He taught for many years at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and worked tirelessly to improve low-income legal services in the Greater Kansas City area. An old-fashioned, country lawyer, he was always able to tell a story to illustrate his case and to demonstrate his connection to the jury.
In honor of his memory, in 2006 the Jim Jeans Memorial Scholarship was created by the generosity of an anonymous donor. Each year, the fund’s investment will be utilized to support at a scholarship in fulfillment of Jim’s legacy and NITA’s mission to promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy.
Alston Jennings was a long time Little Rock attorney, an invaluable member of the NITA faculty and former member of NITA’s Board of Trustees.
Jennings career included service as a special agent in the Intelligence Unit of the Treasury Department; a deputy prosecuting attorney for Pulaski County; and as Partner with the Little Rock law firm of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings. Jennings’ practice of law – with a specialty in trial work – spanned 50 years. Alston was a past president of the Pulaski County Bar Association and a member of the Arkansas Bar Association and the American Bar Association since 1941. He was also elected as a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, president of the International Association of Insurance Counsel, and national president of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Mr. Jennings fought tirelessly to improve the skills of attorneys, especially those working on behalf of the underserved and disenfranchised.
After his passing in 2004, the trustees of The Alston Jennings Foundation, Inc. formed the Alston Jennings Memorial Scholarship, a scholarship to celebrate his memory and commitment to the community.
William “Bill” Keating
A NITA friend and faculty member, William "Bill" Lawrence Keating, passed away in early 2015. People described the Bronco’s player turned lawyer as a warm, funny and caring human being. He was a great lawyer: fearless, courageous, smart, fair, and devoted to his clients.
Bill’s strong work ethic, his love of the law, and his passion in working with people brought to him many honors, including being listed in the Best Lawyers of America for more than 20 years and as one the Top 10 lawyers in Colorado Super Lawyer since 2008.
The Bill Keating Memorial Scholarship was created anonymously by friends at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. Donations are invited to honor Mr. Keating’s memory. Shared here are Bill’s obituary and a cover article from Super Lawyers that featured him as The Gentle Giant.
If you wish to contribute to the NITA Foundation in memory or honor of the people recognized here or someone else please click on the Donate Now button. Then select the Tribute Fund as your fund choice and note the name of the person in the comment section. We sincerely thank you for giving in memory or honor of your colleague, friend, mentor or family member.