Terrible at Oral Advocacy

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mmribail
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Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby mmribail » Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:23 pm

I just had my first experience since my 1L year with Oral Advocacy. I am pretty horrible. I simply could not articulate the arguments that were in my head well enough to be persuasive. I was wondering what type of law I can focus on that does not require much time in the Court room. Perhaps Probate, Contracts, and maybe Family Law? Please, if anyone can give any constructive advice here I would appreciate it.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:29 pm

Transactional work. Drafting contracts is an example of transactional work. Securities & tax are other areas in which you can avoid litigation if you choose the transactional side. Family law can involve lots of court activity, so that may not be a good option for you.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Detrox
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby Detrox » Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:33 pm

In general very little of most lawyers work is done in a courtroom. Transactional lawyers can go their careers without having to bring cases to trial (although they'll likely be involved with helping litigators with cases that center around deals they conducted). This type of work includes everything done in the corporate world from general contract and commercial disputes to structuring deals such as mergers. Thus over half of the lawyers in some/most Biglaw firms are dealing with matters that (hopefully) never enter a courtroom. That being said, oral advocacy skills may still be useful in this context for presenting and negotiating with clients and other parties in the deals, however the type of skills are obviously somewhat different.

Even lawyers who are litigation focused may get little to no speaking experience in the courtroom for years in their career as the more senior litigators usually are the ones taking on that responsibility after they have built up experience by working behind the scenes on years of cases. Thus even in litigation you can survive without oral advocacy skills (at least to start, although you'll probably be expected to take measures to improve them). Note that I'm not saying that every litigator doesn't get to speak in court for years etc. etc. but only that it is possible and even common in some firms.

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Extension_Cord
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby Extension_Cord » Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:35 pm

Most law doesn't involve standing infront of a judge.

Most does require you to be able to orally articulate whats important to supervising attorneys though. This is not the same as oral advocacy and Im sure you will feel more confident in it. Atleast you will after a few times.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:35 pm

Young litigators in large law firms may be required to appear in court to argue motions so avoid litigation practice if you do not want to appear in court.

crit_racer
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby crit_racer » Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:58 pm

Several things:

-Don't make a judgment about your oral advocacy skills after 1 school exercise. These can take a while to develop but improve drastically with increased exposure

-Lots of "shitlaw" involves a lot of court time. Avoid personal injury, family law, criminal law, etc. The main kind of non-corporate work you should look at if you don't want to litigate is probate law

-Big firms will give you the option to do transactional law, which will require no court room time

Good luck. Honestly, though, I'm sure youll be fine either way. Practice some more and you'll be surprised how quickly you get the hang of it

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eandy
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby eandy » Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:02 pm

A lot of what you seem to be describing as being your problem articulating what is in your head boils down to confidence. A lot of people make the mistake of worrying about what they say coming out perfect and in doing so end up stuttering and talking in circles. Have a plan, practice with a completely written out speech a few times(so you know how it SHOULD sound), then practice it extemporaneously. Practice will bring confidence which should help a lot.

mmribail
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby mmribail » Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:02 pm

I am glad to hear that there are areas with limited court room exposure. I am more interested in Probate and Guardianship (incapacitated people) work anyway. It was an Appellate Hearing Moot Court type of thing. I believe I wrote a solid brief; it is just that I wasn't able to articulate the arguments within well enough to do well. I had some pauses that seemed like 15 seconds long. Yeah, it was pretty bad.

I am however interested in hearing how people were able to overcome some of these issues. Is it really just practice, or are some people just naturally better at this type of stuff.

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eandy
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby eandy » Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:10 pm

mmribail wrote:I am glad to hear that there are areas with limited court room exposure. I am more interested in Probate and Guardianship (incapacitated people) work anyway. It was an Appellate Hearing Moot Court type of thing. I believe I wrote a solid brief; it is just that I wasn't able to articulate the arguments within well enough to do well. I had some pauses that seemed like 15 seconds long. Yeah, it was pretty bad.

I am however interested in hearing how people were able to overcome some of these issues. Is it really just practice, or are some people just naturally better at this type of stuff.

Some people are naturally better, I am not going to lie to you and say they aren't. HOWEVER, I was debate captain for two years in high school and did something similar in undergrad. As such, it was my job to teach novices what to do. So much of public speaking is practice and confidence. ANYONE can be a good public speaker. Phenomenal? maybe not. Good? Yes. You just have to get comfortable with it. Moot court can be especially stressful on some people because it is an external locus of control issue: they are asking you questions and kind of seem to be controlling your destiny.
Try doing mock trial instead--I think you might find it a lot easier to do. You can practice a lot of it ahead of time exactly as you will present it later(which you can't do for moot court) and build confidence. You are in the driver's seat for mock trial. See if that helps.
I'd say basic tips:
1. Eye contact!
2. Good posture
3. Move with purpose (if appropriate--for moot court it is usually not appropriate to move about). When transitioning to your next point, walk. You should make a little triangle. Start in the center. Walk to the right for point one. Stop and present point 1. Move to the left (above center). Stop and present point 2. Move left and present point 3. Go back to starting point to conclude. Modify pattern as necessary.
4. Be confident. Practice a lot. Practice in front of other people. Get feedback. Videotape yourself. It's painful but you will catch a lot of your mistakes. Even taping yourself on your laptop's camera will work.

mmribail
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby mmribail » Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:32 pm

Thanks for the advice. This experience was very eye opening to say the least. Journals and most law school courses simply do not expose you to this type of thing. It is a little unfortunate given oral advocacy is a factor in the life of many attorneys. My goal here is not even to be really good. I just hope I can avoid being terrible from now on and fill in for the real moot court stars if I have to. Great advice; I really appreciate the time.

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eandy
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby eandy » Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:35 pm

mmribail wrote:Thanks for the advice. This experience was very eye opening to say the least. Journals and most law school courses simply do not expose you to this type of thing. It is a little unfortunate given oral advocacy is a factor in the life of many attorneys. My goal here is not even to be really good. I just hope I can avoid being terrible from now on and fill in for the real moot court stars if I have to. Great advice; I really appreciate the time.

Please keep in mind that most attorneys do not do appellate work. In fact, many engagement letters to clients specifically tell them that if the case ends up appealed, that the client will have to find another attorney to handle the appeal. So if you hate moot court, do not worry. Chances are you will never have to do that. I really think you may end up liking mock trial, though, so try that. I hate moot court (ended up crying after once), but I really enjoy mock trial. It's really different.

mmribail
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Re: Terrible at Oral Advocacy

Postby mmribail » Mon Nov 21, 2011 9:00 pm

Please keep in mind that most attorneys do not do appellate work. In fact, many engagement letters to clients specifically tell them that if the case ends up appealed, that the client will have to find another attorney to handle the appeal. So if you hate moot court, do not worry. Chances are you will never have to do that. I really think you may end up liking mock trial, though, so try that. I hate moot court (ended up crying after once), but I really enjoy mock trial. It's really different.[/quote]

Yeah, that is true. I clerked for a probate firm over the summer and they never once handled an appellate case. I am a huge con law nerd so I really didn't mind researching and actually writing the brief. I just was not ready for prime time when it came to presenting it. I did mock trial once my 1L year. I felt I did decent. Presenting a 5 minuet opening statement and conducting cross examination is a little easier. I could still use some work. But maybe that is the area I need to focus on. It is really good to hear that even seasoned people like you have had issues with Moot Court. I am not alone! Although, when I end up with a B or C in the class due to my performance...that is another thing :P.




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