William C. Nettles Delivers Annual Distinguished Lecture on Trial Advocacy and Professionalism
Web Editor - Published: June 7, 2010
On Friday, May 28th, William C. Nettles, Esq. ’92 - who was confirmed as the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina on May 3rd after being nominated by President Obama - delivered the Distinguished Lecture on Trial Advocacy and Professionalism to students in the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program on Widener Law’s Harrisburg campus.

Associate Professor J. Palmer Lockard II, the Director of the ITAP program on the Harrisburg campus, opened the program by paying tribute to E. John Wherry Jr. Wherry, who passed away in March, was responsible for founding the ITAP program, saying, “He was generous with his time, and he was incredible with his skill in teaching trial advocacy to Widener students.” Professor Lockard then introduced William Nettles, noting that he was in the first class that Lockard taught and was a member of the first graduating class from the Harrisburg campus.

The lecture, entitled “Trial Lawyers: Phantom Instruments of Change,” focused on the often unacknowledged impact that trial lawyers could have on the evolution of law. He opened the lecture by covering the origins of the adversarial system, saying, “Conflict is what brings the parties into the courtroom. Without conflict, there would be no reason for the parties to be at separate council tables. The parties have come to the courtroom with lawyers as their voices to have the conflict resolved.” He went on to note that though Judges are often given the credit, the law does not change unless a trial lawyer raises an issue.

“You will be lawyers. Your job is to ensure that your client gets a fair shake,” he told the assembled students, adding, “It is in your best interests and the best interests of your client to provide that representation within the confines of the rules of the game while always examining the rules, questioning the rules – not because you don’t like rules, but because you want to make the system we have more fair and more just.” He further implored them to remember, “As a lawyer, you should dispense advice dispassionately, but advocate passionately.”

In closing, Nettles said, “I’m very excited for each one of you. When you leave here, if you choose, you will have the tools to make a difference in people’s lives everyday.”