Prof. Tracy McCormack is Teaching Advocacy In Texas—and Nigeria

Texas Law Prof. Tracy McCormack ’86 is passionate about trial advocacy. She’s been teaching it to generations of Texas Law students, she’s been running the school’s award-wining Advocacy Programs, and she’s written several books and dozens of articles on the subject. Her most recent book even embraces the most current state of advocacy. Remote Advocacy in a Nutshell is described by the publisher as “the comprehensive guide for lawyers and law students seeking to represent clients over remote platforms.”

Now, the longtime instructor is using her skills, including her command of remote technologies, to extend her reach. McCormack recently joined the Board of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) and, in that role, has stepped forward as a volunteer teaching trial skills and procedure to judges and prosecutors in Africa, as a part of program in which NITA experts deliver training to “countries around the world transitioning to democratic, open systems, or going through judicial reforms.”

“NITA receives inquiries from a number of sources,” said McCormack, describing the course of events that led her to be on a Zoom recently with Nigerian officials. “Sometimes judges have called on NITA to conduct trainings for lawyers, sometimes a government or an ambassador will request trainings for the judges, too.”

The trainings, which take place over the course of a full week, focus on the practical details of how to conduct a typical criminal trial from start to finish. “A trial is a mechanical process,” pointed out McCormack. “Our training is focused on procedures, rules of evidence, the order in which presentations are made, the basics of direct questions and cross questioning, and so on.”

Another partner on this international work is Lawyers Without Borders (LWB), which provides key infrastructural support and personnel.

How do the trainees in Nigeria, or in Kenya, another country for which McCormack has provided training, respond to a group of American lawyers teaching them the ins and outs of those mechanics?

“My experience is that people are very eager for the training,” said McCormack. “And they are operating under very difficult circumstances. It’s hard enough to conduct careful, proper trials when everyone in the system is supportive and cheering you. It’s really hard when people are against you, as is often the case in these countries.”

“Offering them support—in addition to invaluable skills—is a thrill. I want to do this and to continue to be a part of it.”

It hasn’t been lost on McCormack the ability to conduct international trainings without the logistics and cost of travel has largely been made possible by the enforced constraints of the past year. “People should embrace this part of Zoom. Zoom has allowed us to do amazing things. I look forward to doing it in person, but this has been great.”

The training provided by NITA and LWB is also being offered around the globe on several continents.

Rest assured, McCormack still focuses most of her work right here in Austin, and this year’s trial advocacy students have enjoyed multiple regional and national championships. “I love what I do,” reflects McCormack on twenty years of leading the school’s advocacy programs. “Our students inspire me and I love that when I’m working with NITA I don’t just represent myself—I represent Texas, our school, and our community as well.”

(Prof. McCormack is also leading a CLE session at this year’s Texas Law Reunion 2021, on Friday, April 16. You can register now.)