One of the 1L rites of passage is defending an appellate brief by oral argument in front of a panel of judges. For this year’s class, this happens tomorrow.
The first year of law school primarily emphasizes performing legal analysis through the skills of reading and writing, although the Socratic teaching method does from time to time present students with the opportunity to employ the power of the spoken word. Defending the appellate brief by oral argument is the only time that 1L students are all asked to employ oral advocacy skills on the same day. The novelty of this seems daunting to many.
The popular perception of a lawyer involves making oral arguments in a courtroom, but the reality is that most lawyers work in contexts far from a courtroom. In fact, many lawyers never see the inside of a courtroom in practice. I found it surprising that a large group of law students are terrified of public speaking. Given my previous statement, this is ultimately not problematic, but it does make this particular 1L rite of passage a stressful time for many students.
Still, I love this project. I remember attending a panel discussion during my first year of law school, and one of the panelists encouraged all students to sign up for a “trial advocacy” class at some point during law school. She said what I wrote earlier — that lots of attorneys never step foot in a courtroom — but she argued that it would be a shame to go to law school and not know what to do in a courtroom! I remember thinking that to be sage advice.
So I am excited about tomorrow. Every 1L student will stand and argue before a panel of judges. If nothing else, that just seems like law school to me!