National Institute for Trial Advocacy

NITA Education CenterMar 04, 2019
From the Director’s Desk: March 2019
By Wendy McCormack Mar 04, 2019
McCormack_FINAL.jpg (1.77 MB) Last month, I attended the San Francisco Bar Association’s Women in Trial initiative, led by Doris Cheng. As I prepped to go, I asked a few of our NITA teachers what came to mind when they thought about the topic of Women in the Law. All three pointed to similar things: the industry statistics for women and minorities, women’s lack of confidence, and how important it is for women to help other women.

According to the ABA, the number of women in the legal field has only been increased 5% (now at 35%) in the past ten years. While women make up about 45% of associates in private practice, only 20% of partners are women. Active minority attorneys represent approximately 11%, with little growth over the past ten years. More women are moving into positions of authority and leadership, but though it’s improving, progress is often slow and uneven.

Fixing the unbalance and lack of opportunity takes time, patience, and participation. And that doesn’t require being an “outspoken feminist” or “playing the gender card” to take advantage of these opportunities. It does require speaking up, volunteering, & taking risks.
—Beth Sher, partner at Day Pitney.

NITA’s role: Continue to champion women participants and faculty. Representation is the first step to creating gender equality. When people see women in positions of authority or leadership, it normalizes that role and creates aspiration of achieving the same. Having women champion other women and teach other women creates an attitude and belief that anything is possible.

Most women struggle more with confidence than men, maybe because of gender stereotypes and maybe because of true lack of experience—or we just don’t fake it as well as our male counterparts. Women tend to be quieter, more deferential, more conciliatory. This works well in some settings, but not in depositions or trials. We know there are differences—some real, some perceived—in how men and women handle conflict, stress, emotions, etc.

By increasing confidence in women and providing them with the advocacy tools to not only succeed but to embody and reflect self-assuredness, NITA is promoting women. The more that we see women teaching skills and the more women who receive NITA training, the more we can support the effort to have women not only represented in the profession, but to have women being leaders, stakeholders, partners, and judges.
—Annie Deets, Dekalb County Public Defender.

NITA’s role: NITA programs provide a safe, supportive, and challenging environment to help level the playing field in terms of confidence and experience. NITA program participants gain confidence through multiple opportunities at learning by doing. By immersing themselves in the subject matter, participants grow exponentially in a short time. This is done is a safe environment, encouraging participants to build self-assurance and poise.

Women helping other women:
From infancy, when we “learn to learn,” we emulate the role models presented to us (parents, teachers, etc.). When women see women in positions of authority or leadership, it creates aspiration of achieving the same. Having women champion other women and teach other women fosters an attitude and belief that anything is possible.

There is a place reserved in Hell for women who do not help other women.
—Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State

NITA’s role: NITA offers lawyers the chance to find a voice and style that works for them among very different voices.

It's not just that we have women teachers; our male faculty are all-out advocates of women in the profession. The mentor that a women lawyer chooses at NITA may well be a man whose style and approach matches hers. NITA is not one size fits all, and we offer and encourage lots of sizes and styles to try out in a safe atmosphere until you find the perfect fit.
-NITA faculty Terre Rushton

We move forward by reaching back, giving a helping hand to the women who come after us. Within living memory, we have gone from law firms without a single female associate to almost half the associate positions being filled by women. Now our goal must be to bring that kind of equality to partnerships, and minorities. One way to break through to this diversity is for women to help other women become their best, most confident professional selves.

NITA has been doing just that since 1971—helping women lawyers gain confidence and find their brave to be successful, and equally important, making inroads that other women can follow. And women who NITA has helped move forward are still with us, reaching back to guide the way for the next generation of women.

Wendy Signature.png (10 KB)

About the Author
Wendy McCormack Boulder, CO

As Executive Director, Wendy works collaboratively with NITA staff, the Board of Trustees, and the organization as a whole in developing an... Read more

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