Section 337 proceedings can be uniquely rigorous and require a deep understanding of the International Trade Commission’s complexities and ongoing developments. To better prepare attorneys and expert witnesses for these types of hearings, the ITC’s Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) established the Nurturing Excellence in Trial Advocates (NEXT Advocates) Program which supports the ITCTLA’s Mock Hearing Program. WIT is a proud supporter of the NEXT Advocates Program and provided experts for this past year’s inaugural Mock Hearing, offering the participating attorneys the opportunity to gain experience in presenting a witness before an actual ITC judge. 

To better understand the program and its benefits, we sat down with Craig Downing, an engineering expert and educator, who participated in last year’s event. Here’s what he had to say about his experience.

WIT: Can you describe your general experience with the ITCTLA NEXT Advocates mock trial program?

Downing: My experience was very positive. The process was enriching, offering operational insights, mentorship opportunities, and a chance to improve professional skills. The mock trial was a valuable exercise in litigation preparedness and professional development.

WIT: Can you walk us through what the day of the mock trial looked like for you?

Downing: The day started early with me reviewing my notes to ensure I was fully prepared Upon arrival, I met with the attorneys to get acclimated to the courtroom environment. Before the mock trial officially began, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the court officers and the presiding judge, which helped ease into the day’s proceedings. The trial then unfolded as anticipated. (A tip for other participants in this program: Don’t try to predict every question the opposition might ask.) After the trial, the presiding judge offered valuable feedback and insights, which was a highlight of the experience. I enjoyed the fellowship of the event.

WIT: Who did you work with for the event? And did you put in more hours working alone or as a member of the team?

Downing: During the program, I worked closely with attorneys from Morrison Foerster, and also interacted with an attorney from DLA Piper who provided mentorship and served as a liaison, which facilitated our communication and overall engagement in the mock trial.

 My engagement with the team spurred my action plan thereafter. So, I would go in with what I thought was required and maybe 70% of that work was me acting alone. The other 30% was where I said, “OK, let me check my expectations, I need to calibrate” and then began collaborating with the team more directly, which is another reason why I wanted to participate; to be able to learn how to more effectively communicate with legal teams in these types of scenarios.

WIT: Which ALJ did you work with in the NEXT Advocates Program and what did you think about their participation in the program?

Downing: I worked with Chief ALJ Cheney, and he is my kind of judge. He has an engineering background, so he understands the complexities of the engineering mind. He also has legal prowess and conducted his courtroom in a very pragmatic but effective way. At the end of the program (or was day?), he encouraged us to share our informal insights, human to human. Additionally, I really enjoyed his coaching and mentoring style because it was constructive in a non-pejorative way, and he helped the attorneys better prepare for the types of situations presented in the program.

WIT: What motivated you to participate in the NEXT Advocates Program?

Downing: My motivation was not financial but rather the opportunity for professional growth and to share my expertise as an expert witness, which I found very enjoyable.

WIT: Did you receive any feedback or mentoring during the program?

Downing: Yes, Judge Cheney provided direct feedback and mentoring, which I found invaluable. His advice on being more than just an engineer in a legal environment and focusing on being a person first was impactful. It’s something that I continue to work on, and I appreciated hearing it.

WIT: How did the program impact your professional skills or approach to work?

Downing: The program taught me the importance of setting realistic boundaries, asking clarifying questions, and wearing my “humility hat.” By that I mean not putting unrealistic expectations on myself, which I think people in the engineering discipline tend to do. It was essential for me to just remember to ask those clarifying questions to make sure I understood either our attorneys’ or the opposing counsel’s questions and to continue wearing my ‘humility hat’, eventually learning that all would be OK. 

WIT: Would you recommend the NEXT Advocates Program to other experts? Why?

Downing: I believe that this program would be very useful for other expert witnesses, especially those from the engineering discipline, to gain experience in a mock legal environment on account of how litigious we are today. It’s an excellent way to prepare for potential real-life courtroom situations and gain some experience in a mock scenario rather than going in cold turkey.

Stay tuned for insights from WIT’s additional expert participant, Hossein Alisafaee, on his experience with the program and working with ALJ Bryan Moore.

WIT’s ITC Practice

ITC ALJ Report Series

WIT remains dedicated to delivering high-quality, data-driven insights on the ITC and its ALJs to ensure that we continue to provide the most qualified and effective experts for our clients.  We recently released our first ITC ALJ spotlight on Administrative Law Judge Monica Bhattacharyya, an advocate for and active participant in the NEXT Advocates Program. In WIT’s ALJ report, we examined statistics across numerous categories and compiled insights that offers an exclusive look at ALJ Bhattacharyya’s activity with the ITC. Also, earlier this year, we released our inaugural ITC report that provides data around 2023’s proceedings at the ITC.

In subsequent reports, we will focus on each ALJ, providing a detailed view of the judge’s investigations and focus areas while highlighting their behaviors and backgrounds. These will be released throughout the year and the next in will cover Chief ALJ Clark Cheney.

How WIT’s Experts Can Assist in ITC Investigations

At WIT, we understand that ITC Investigations can be highly nuanced and have engaged with testifying experts who possess a deep understanding of the major industries and technologies at issue before the Commission. Our ITC Practice features a diverse group of technical and industry experts–from C-suite executives to technology specialists–who are dedicated to supporting our clients in complex matters. 

Contact us to learn more about our ITC Practice and how our experts can help your team prepare for a Section 337 Investigation.

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