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Trial Academy and Virtual Trial Tactics
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Trial Academy and Virtual Trial Tactics

 Export to Your Calendar 10/6/2020 to 10/8/2020
When: October 6-8, 2020
Where: via Zoom
United States
Contact: Sandra Wulf

Online registration is available until: 10/8/2020
« Go to Upcoming Event List  

Looking for information on how to navigate virtual trials? Or are you new to the practice of law and need not only to understand virtual trials, but also how to litigate?

The Illinois Defense Counsel, Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana, and Wisconsin Defense Counsel have, for decades, presented the North Central Region Trial Academy to give those with limited courtroom and trial experience the trial advocacy education they need to succeed. However, in this day of virtual trials, a traditional Trial Academy is not enough to prepare defense counsel to face the challenges they face in the virtual courtroom. With this in mind, we have revamped our Trial Academy experience.

For 2020, we will present the North Central Region Trial Academy WITH a tract for attorneys needing Virtual Trial Tactics. Whether you have limited (or no) courtroom experience, or you need a refresher course on litigation (especially in these times of COVID-19), the 2020 Trial Academy and Trial Tactics event is designed for you. Attorneys may register for only the Virtual Trial Tactics only OR for the full Trial Academy.

Virtual Trial Tactics

The Virtual Trial Tactics Tract will include lectures from our Trial Academy faculty members on:

  • Pre-Trial/Post-Trial and Evidentiary Motions
  • Jury Instructions
  • Faculty Demonstration of Voir Dire and Comments on Voir Dire
  • Faculty Demonstration/Lecture on Direct Examination of Plaintiff's Treating Physican and Defendant's Retained Expert (IME)
  • Faculty Lecture on Cross Examination
  • Trial by Technology
  • Faculty Demonstration of Witness' Direct Examination of Pat Fairbanks

Plus, the Trial Tactics tract will also include a "Tips from the Bench" presentation from Hon. Thomas More Donnelly and a presentation from Dr. Monnie Kanter, a board-certified general orthopaedic surgeon and medicolegal defense consultant.

Trial Academy

The Trial Academy will include all of the Trial Tactics content listed above, plus attendees will have significant opportunities to learn and put into practice the exceptional education in trial advocacy provided by our faculty. With a ratio of four registrants to one instructor, every registrant is guaranteed individual attention during each phase of the trial.  

Registrants are provided written materials well in advance of the Academy and are responsible for participating in the Trial Academy prepared to conduct the entire defense of the trial, from the opening statement to the closing argument. The materials provided, which include investigative materials, statements from witnesses to be used for impeachment, pleadings, deposition testimony, jury instructions and articles on trial advocacy, allow registrants to conduct an entire trial. Registrants are to be prepared as if they were actually engaged in trial and are required to submit a Trial Outline in advance of the Academy. 

Registration Information

North Central Region Trial Academy (Includes Virtual Trial Tactics)

  • IDC, DTCI, WDC Members $250
  • Non-Members $350

Virtual Trial Tactics 

  • IDC, DTCI, WDC Members $200
  • Non-Members $300

Continuing Legal Education

We will apply for the following CLE credit for this program:

North Central Region Trial Academy (Includes Virtual Trial Tactics)

  • Illinois, Indiana & Iowa: 12.75 (including 1.0 Professionalism/Ethics Credit)
  • Missouri & Wisconsin: 15.5 (including 1.2 Professionalism/Ethics Credit) 

Virtual Trial Tactics

  • Illinois, Indiana & Iowa: 4.75 (including .75 Professionalism/Ethics Credit)
  • Missouri & Wisconsin: 5.8 (including .9 Professionalism/Ethics Credit) 

Academy Schedule

Trial Academy
Virtual Trial Tactics

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

1:00 - 1:15 Welcome & Orientation 
1:15 - 1:45  Tips from the Bench
1:45 - 2:10  Pre-Trial/Post-Trial and Evidentiary Motions
2:10 - 2:25  Jury Instructions
2:25 -2:40 Faculty Demonstration of Voir Dire and Comments on Voir Dire
2:40 - 3:10 Faculty Presentation of Plaintiff's Opening Statement
3:10 - 4:15 Defendant's Opening Statement
4:15 - 4:45 Faculty Demonstration of Opening Statement and Discussion of Defense Opening Statement Strategy
4:45 - 5:00 Objections During Trial/Mistrial
5:00 - 5:30 Open Forum

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

1:00 - 1:35  Physician's Lecture
1:35 - 2:15 Faculty Demonstration and Lecture on Direct Examination of Plaintiff's Treating Physician and Defendant's Retained Expert (IME)
2:15 - 2:35  Faculty Lecture on Cross Examination
2:35 - 4:00 Cross Examination of Treating Physician and Direct Examination of Defendant's Examining Physician
4:00 - 4:30 Faculty Demonstration of Plaintiff's Direct Examination
4:30 - 5:30 Defendant's Cross Examination of Plaintiff

Thursday, October 8, 2020

1:00 - 1:30 Trial by Technology
1:30 - 1:50 Faculty Demonstration of Witness' Direct Examination
1:50 - 2:50  Cross Examination of Plaintiff's Witness
2:50 - 3:10 Faculty Demonstration  and Discussion of Witness Preparation
3:10 - 4:10 Direct Examination of Defendant
4:10 - 4:30 Faculty Presentation of Plaintiff's Closing Statement
4:30 - 5:30 Defendant's Closing Argument


  James D. Ahern is a partner in both the Chicago, Illinois and Crown Point, Indiana offices of Cassiday Schade, LLP and has dedicated his career to the defense of medical malpractice cases. Mr. Ahern has also served as co-chair of the firm’s Associate Training and Development program. He is involved in all aspects of case handling; from discovery through trial through the appeal. He has served as both first and second chair in trials involving various medical specialties including neonatology, pathology, emergency medicine, orthopedics, otolaryngology, ENT medicine, and family practice. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Marquette University in 1977 and his Juris Doctorate from the John Marshall Law School in 1989.  
 Denise Baker-Seal is a partner in the Belleville, Illinois law firm of Brown & James, P.C. Her practice has focused on the defense of employment matters and catastrophic personal injury cases. She serves as Co-Chair of the Firm's Employment Law Group. Ms. Baker-Seal has experience representing clients in state and federal courts, the EEOC, and state and local administrative agencies. She also serves as an arbitrator in the mandatory arbitration programs in St. Clair and Madison Counties. Prior to entering private practice, Ms. Baker-Seal served as the Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Lewis M. Blanton, U.S. Magistrate Judge. A graduate of Millikin University and Northeastern University School of Law, Ms. Baker-Seal is admitted to the bars of Illinois and Missouri and all federal courts in Illinois.
 Laura K. Beasley is a member of Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice LLC in Belleville. Ms. Beasley focuses her practice in the areas of manufacturing, insurance, transportation, pharmaceuticals, and medical device. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geography in 1996 from Austin Peay University and her law degree from Southern Illinois University School in 2001. She is a member of several bar associations and currently serves as First Vice President of the IDC Board of Directors. She is licensed to practice in both Illinois and Missouri state and federal courts.
  Mark P. Broderick is a partner in the SmithAmundsen, LLC Milwaukee, Wisconsin office where he handles litigated matters involving professional liability, products liability, and premises liability. Mark also handles litigated matters involving torts, contracts, and construction related disputes in Wisconsin and Illinois. As a trained arbitrator, he is frequently asked to preside over arbitrations for the 19th Judicial Circuit in Lake County, Illinois and for private litigants. Mark managed the firm’s northern Illinois office for eight years where his responsibilities included the training and mentoring of the firm’s associate attorneys. Mark has tried cases to successful verdicts in both Wisconsin and Illinois and has arbitrated and mediated hundreds of cases during his tenure with the firm.  

Mark M. Burden is a partner with Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC where he concentrates his practice on the defense of physicians, hospitals, and allied healthcare practitioners in professional liability lawsuits. Mr. Burden has successfully resolved hundreds of medical negligence cases and has tried to verdict more than 40 cases. The vast majority of his trial practice has involved the defense of medical professionals and health care institutions. Mr. Burden was recently elected as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He has been an invited speaker at numerous bar association CLE presentations and healthcare seminars on such topics as risk management, bariatric surgery, managing a malpractice lawsuit, technology in the courtroom, preparing an opening statement in a jury trial, and effective cross-examination of expert witnesses. Mr. Burden joined the firm upon its founding in 1995 and has been a partner since 2000. He initially started his practice at Baker & McKenzie in 1992. He received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1989 and his law degree from Chicago Kent College of Law in 1992, where he served as an editor of the Law Review. He also served as an extern with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois and for the Honorable James B. Zagel of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 
Hon. Thomas More Donnelly serves as an Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. He is assigned to the Law Division. Sworn in as a judge in 2000, he currently serves in the Law Division, Trial Section. He has tried over 300 jury trials. He currently sits on Illinois Judicial College Board of Trustees with a term expiring 2023 and serves as liaison to the Committee on Judicial Education. From 2016 to 2019, he served as the inaugural chair of the Illinois Judicial College Board. Additionally, he serves on the faculty of the National Judicial College and teaches judges around the country. He served on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices from its inception until its final report 2018-2020. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed him as one of two judicial representatives on the Statutory Court Fee Task Force and he served on the task force from its inception until its final report 2016-2019. He has taught at Loyola Law School for the past thirty years. While he has taught five different courses, he currently reaches Illinois Civil Procedure. He has taught or lectured at many other law schools: Marquette, University of Chicago, Washington & Lee, DePaul. He teaches widely with bar associations and other groups.

Donald Patrick Eckler is a partner at Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered. He practices in both Illinois and Indiana in the areas of commercial litigation, professional malpractice defense, tort defense, and insurance coverage. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and his law degree from the University of Florida. He is a member of the Illinois Association Defense Trial Counsel and the Professional Liability Defense Federation. The views expressed in his article are his, and do not reflect those of his firm or its clients.

Brian T. Henry is an equity partner of Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered. While the majority of his trials have been on behalf of hospitals or medical professionals, he has tried lawsuits in several other areas, including product liability, premises liability, false imprisonment and commercial litigation. For over 15 years, Mr. Henry has averaged five to six jury trials per year. Mr. Henry is a long-time North Central Region Trial Academy faculty member and was a member of the faculty of the 2001 Trial Academy of the International Association of Defense Counsel. In 2002, Mr. Henry was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations in North America.

Philip E. Kalamaros is a partner with Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros LLP. He is licensed in Indiana and Michigan, and divides his practice between the two states. He has a broad litigation practice, practicing in state and federal trial and appellate courts and administrative agencies, including all types of Professional Malpractice, D & O, E & O, Coverage, Premises, Products, and General Tort Defense, Worker’s Compensation and Business Planning. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BBA 1984, JD 1987.) He is a past Amicus Committee Chairman and currently a Director of Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana. He is a past Director of the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, and a Life Fellow of the Indiana Bar Foundation. He is a member of the Defense Research Institute, the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana, the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel, the National Council of Self Insured’s, the Notre Dame Law Association, the Seventh Circuit, St. Joseph County, Berrien County, Indiana State and Michigan State Bar Associations.
  Dr. Alvin (Monnie) Kanter is a board certified general orthopaedic surgeon, who obtained his undergraduate and medical degrees from the U. of Virginia, following which he trained in Boston and New York. After two years in the Army, he settled in Elmhurst, Illinois where he has been practicing orthopaedic surgery since 1966. His practice included spine surgery and he brought arthroscopic surgery to Elmhurst Hospital. He was also an early proponent of hip and then knee replacement and has an extensive experience with hip and knee replacement. When he came to Elmhurst, Elmhurst Memorial Hospital was the center for motor vehicle trauma in DuPage County prior to the presence of Loyola Medical Center, Good Samaritan Hospital, and Central DuPage becoming more than an emergency room with a nurse. His trauma experience is large, including the treatment of acute spinal fractures. For more than ten years, he has limited his practice to medicolegal consultation, generally for the defense, although he recently acted as the expert in a plaintiff’s case that achieved an $8 million verdict in Cook. He remains currently active in medicolegal consultation.

R. Jeffrey Lowe is a partner in the New Albany, IN office of Kightlinger & Gray, LLP. Mr. Lowe’s primary area of practice is in civil rights defense work. He regularly represents governmental entities sued for constitutional or state law torts in state or federal courts. He regularly counsels cities, towns and counties regarding their constitutional obligations and state law duties. He also handles general liability and professional liability cases. He is the former Chair of DRI’s Governmental Liability Section and now serves on DRI’s National Board of Directors. Mr. Lowe is also a member of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel and the International Association of Defense Counsel. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Defense Counsel. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1994 with a B.A. in History and received his J.D. from the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville in 1998.

Sommer Luzynczyk is a partner at Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered in Chicago where her practice includes Medical Negligence & Healthcare, Long-Term Care Liability, and Premises & General Liability. The majority of Sommer's practice is devoted to defending complex medical negligence matters. She has successfully defended cases involving various medical specialties. Sommer earned her J.D., cum laude, from The John Marshall Law School in 2009 and her B.A., magna cum laude, from the University of Memphis in 2005. Sommer’s bar admissions include the Supreme Court of Illinois and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She is a member of the Illinois Association Defense Trial Counsel and the Illinois State Bar Association.

Heather L. Nelson of Everson, Whitney, Everson & Brehm, S.C. in Green Bay, WI is on the Board of Directors of Wisconsin Defense Counsel and serves as Chair of its Women in the Law Committee. An experienced trial attorney, Heather has successfully tried cases before juries in state and federal courts throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. A native of Green Bay, she moved with her family to Illinois as a teenager, obtained her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in Chicago and launched her legal career in the Chicago area. After representing defendants in civil litigation matters with two Chicago-based private insurance defense firms, she joined Chicago’s staff counsel operation for The Hanover Insurance Group. Heather became licensed to practice law in Wisconsin in 2000 and thus expanded Hanover’s in-house reach into and throughout the entire state of Wisconsin. Heather became a Lead Trial Attorney at Hanover, representing Hanover and its insureds and advising Hanover’s claims personnel from pre-litigation stages through trial and appeal. Joining the Everson Law Firm in 2016 brought Heather back to her Green Bay roots. Her practice areas include motor vehicle accident, premises liability claims (including Safe Place Act), wrongful death and products liability. Heather also has experience in employment discrimination litigation and has represented employers in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigations.
  Tracy E. Stevenson is a shareholder at the Law Offices of Tracy E. Stevenson, P.C. in Chicago. Tracy’s litigation practice includes the defense of insurance claim including property claims, auto claims, subrogation and personal injury claims. She specializes in the investigation and litigation of all types of insurance fraud including UM/UIM cases. Tracy has represented municipal and governmental agencies in litigation including defense of tort claims under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act as well as condominium associations. Tracy also has a strong background and extensive experience defending medical malpractice claims representing both physicians and hospitals. Tracy has tried numerous cases to verdict in both state and Federal courts including Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, California and Florida. Tracy has appeared and argued before the Illinois Supreme Court and various appellate courts nationwide. She has been licensed in Illinois since 1991 and Michigan since 1992. Outside of her work in the courtroom, Tracy is an avid writer for various legal publications, a speaker at various seminars and is the current and past chair of both the IDC Trial and Deposition Academies. She is a faculty member of the National Insurance Crime Bureau academy at which she lectures on fraud in the legal profession across the country. She is an adjunct professor at the John Marshall Law School teaching trial and appellate advocacy. 

Monte E. Weiss, Case Western Reserve Univ., 1991, of Weiss Law Office, S.C., Mequon, practices primarily in the defense of bodily injury, property damage, and professional negligence claims for insurance companies and self-insured companies. In conjunction with this area of practice, he has drafted several personal lines insurance policies, including homeowner and automobile policies. He routinely represents insurance companies and policyholders on insurance contract interpretation issues and is a frequent lecturer and author on insurance topics. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Defense Counsel and is the chair of the Insurance Law Committee and Amicus Committee.



Our sincere thanks to the following sponsors for their generous support of this event:

CTL Group




Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company

National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals

S-E-A Limited