In the News

Women's Trial Academy Offers In-Depth Training

April 30, 2014

What do you get when you combine some of Portland’s most experienced female litigators and judges, young female civil litigators, and a dynamic mock trial? The Rothauge & Kaner Women’s Trial Academy.

Renée Rothauge and Lisa Kaner, partners at Markowitz, Herbold, Glade & Mehlhaf P.C., inaugurated the first Academy in February 2014. The Academy is an eight-month long program that provides participants an opportunity to develop trial skills in a small group setting where each participant receives individualized attention. Each class focuses in depth on one element of trial, from opening statements to evidence to closing arguments. Monthly guest coaches provide additional experience and insight on the month’s topic. The small group setting allows participants to practice skills and test techniques in a supportive environment. The most recent class required each participant to perform the direct examination of a witness while facing objections from the remaining participants (acting as vigorous opposing counsel) and responding to thoughtful rulings of guest coach Judge Janice Wilson. The experience of both making and responding to numerous objections provided intensive practice to all participants. In addition, participants had opportunities to ask questions and receive feedback on technique from Judge Wilson and the other instructors.

The Academy also addresses some of the unique challenges women face in the courtroom. Rather than simply acknowledging potential barriers or lamenting biases, classes train participants to turn perceived disadvantages into strengths and winning strategies.  For example, Renée and Lisa led participants in a voice-control exercise to practice various inflections and volumes before a jury.  Participants also engaged in a lively discussion about court-appropriate attire and the assumptions jurors may make based on a lawyer’s physical appearance.

In addition to learning from seasoned litigators and judges, the Academy provides an incredible opportunity for participants to create a strong community of female litigators.  The young litigators come from a variety of civil practices, including large firms and solo practices.   Renée and Lisa have created a safe space in which participants can question, learn, and grow their litigation skills, as well as build connections with their professional peers.  The lessons learned and the bonds created within the Academy surely will continue long after the inaugural Academy ends this fall.     

By Nadine Gartner and Heather Bowman, WTA participants.

Originally published in the Spring 2014 edition of the AdvanceSheet.