lest you be judged? Something like that anyway.
Last year in my Legal Writing class we had to write, then perform an appellate brief. The perform is said advisedly: who in their right mind would put themselves into a position where they are standing in front of a judge’ panel and attempt to give their opinion while being continually interrupted? Yes, I know some lawyers thrive in that type of environment, but for someone who is not particularly confrontational, the idea of standing up and arguing with an important issue on the line? Shivers – not me. Now take George – no, your really can’t take him, I am planning on keeping him for a long time – he is someone who can take passive/agressive to a fine art in avoiding confrontation. But give him a chance to argue an appellate brief? He is all over it in a moment. Thinks it is one of the great opportunities of all time; to make a point and think on one’s feet. He loves it. Strange? I certainly think so.
This year I received an email from one of the faculty members. One of the judges had an emergency, could I fill in? Me? Really? Ok, why not? When? The 13th; Friday the 13th appearing on Wednesday – ok, I can do that.
The performance is held in building 198 in the 4th Floor Moot Courtroom. If you are training lawyers, you want them to have the real experience – right? I decided to head into town early. Since Miriam was headed back to New York today, it seemed reasonable to make one BART run rather than two. Arriving hours ahead of time, I was able to find a quiet corner in one of the lounges and read through the briefs. The expectation (which George tells me doesn’t always happen, is that the Judges actually read the briefs ahead of time – makes for better disruption and questions). From 1200-1300 I listened to three of this year’s presentations.
All the students today, with the exception of one are LLMs. Smart, capable and well prepared. There was a significant variation in the spoken and written language abilities. The advantage seemed to go to the French and Spanish speakers over the Asian language speakers. It was noticeable in the written briefs, and even more so in oral arguments.
Think about it – writing and speaking- with answering questions on your feet – at a professional level in a language that may be your second, third, or fourth. I think it is an obvious challenge, especially thinking about those times between 1999-2001 when I was stationed in Munich and allegedly working in German.
It rapidly became clear that this was not a traumatize the student experience. Rather, the goal was to point out those things done well: logic of argument; use of cases; ability to respond to questions. I am fairly sure that these self-same faculty are nowhere near as kind to US students preparing for Moot Court.
It was an interesting experience, made even more so by my phone going out to lunch part way through the afternoon. Being as how I rarely travel without my laptop, I had an alternate method of communication. Yes, I know I could have found any number of land lines. But exactly how many phone numbers do you keep in your head anymore????