Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Oral Arguments

Many 1Ls got their first taste of litigation last week, as we headed for oral arguments based on Graded III. My experience was that it was great to see everyone all dressed up, and to have an opportunity to start growing into the shoes we'll be wearing once we're out of law school.

I prepared a little bit by reading opposing counsel's brief for about an hour before going in for arguments. He had made some references that I couldn't find. I re-read the case and couldn't quite figure out how he came to the conclusion that he did, especially when he point-cited it. Most of my hour was spent doing that.

Just before going in, I went to the library to print out a copy of my own brief so I'd have notes to go on. As I read through it, I noticed that the highlights on my citations actually showed up despite the black-and-white printer. That means the papers I'd turned in also had the highlights. D'oh!

After listening to Oshin practice his prepared speech, I felt my confidence drop quite a bit. All I had to go on was my portrayal of the defendant, a fictional university motioning for summary judgment in a Title IX sex discrimination action. ("Illinois Southeast University has a history of providing an enriching and rewarding college experience to all its students; and in the early 1970s, we extended those opportunities by providing an athletic program.") Fortunately, opposing counsel seemed eager to get it over with, and wasn't looking for a real duel. The judge was also quite congenial, and helped us along with some of the questions.

I didn't get the shakes; that lectern was a good psychological stabilizer. Knowing that it was there for me to grab on to if I had to, I didn't actually shake so much. I gave myself a mental pinch for every time I said "um" or "uh", and found my brain far less bruised than I had thought it would be. The judge noted that I would sometimes look off to the right. I replied that, according to an article I'd read somewhere, when a person is looking off to his dominant side, he is trying to recall something; when he is looking off to her other side, he is trying to make something up. The judge thought that was interesting.

Unfortunately, the case was designed to be arguable in both directions, which means that the defense's motion for summary judgment would pretty much inevitably fail, for those who were curious. I was not so curious; I was caught up in the high of swinging at all the judge's questions. He had one interesting note for me: He thought that I adequately answered one of his questions, even though I prefaced the answer with "I'm not completely sure", or other words to that effect.

When I came out, I shared war stories with others from my Legal Writing class. I would say that Craig, Carolyn T., and Renee were the most enthused. Craig and Carolyn were now quite sure that litigation is the path they would want to go. While I wouldn't say that I had quite that experience, I would say that I now at least am willing to consider litigation, where before I had been dead set on doing more transactional work.

Hope everybody else had a fun time!


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