Oral Arguments

December 27, 2007

L.B., 1L

I’m finishing up my first semester of law school this week, and I’m pretty shocked how quickly it has passed. Despite Yale’s reputation of being “theoretical,” I feel like in one semester I’ve learned a lot of skills that will help me in my law career. I’ve learned how to brief cases. I’ve learned how to critically read cases. I’ve learned to write legal memos and briefs for appellate courts. And now, I’m preparing for my first oral argument.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to learn how to present a fantastic oral argument. Yale’s wonderful legal writing instructor (Rob Harrison, who is one of Yale’s brightest and most humorous characters) held sessions for the 1Ls to discuss preparation for oral arguments. He told us what types of questions we should prepare for, various options for notes to have at the podium, and gave us tips for effectively answering the judges’ questions. The following Monday, most of YLS gathered in the auditorium to watch the moot court competition finals. A panel of Circuit Court judges was brought in to sit for the moot court competition, and the finalists did an amazing job in answering their questions. Finally, last Friday, my small group took a school-sponsored field trip to New York City to watch our Torts professor sit on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Without knowing the background of any of the cases, I was able to listen to arguments, trying to learn why some attorneys were more persuasive than others.

So now it’s my turn.

It’s the last big assignment for my small group this semester (other than the final, of course). I’ve spent hours over the weekend reading and re-reading my brief, cited cases, and opponent’s arguments. Thankfully, I’ll only be facing our Constitutional Law professor and two 3Ls in oral arguments, but standing in front of the room while being pelted with questions is enough to make me a little nervous.

Looking back at this semester, I can see how much YLS has taught me about the law. Now it’s my chance to show what I’ve learned.