Before I jet off to law school to study again (this is such a great time of year!) I wanted to share a little bit about one of my favorite classes I’ve taken — and definitely my favorite class this semester — Trial Advocacy.
This class was taught by an adjunct professor who is a judge over at the California Superior Court. We met once a week for 3 hours (our class was small — there were only 6 of us!) and we covered a different segment of the trial every week.
For our first assignment, we had to give a speech on any topic. I spoke about running (surprise, surprise), but it was great to get feedback about our public speaking and what we needed to improve on. (My nervous habit is that sometimes I will cross and un-cross my legs — so it was great to have that pointed out).
Here are some of the topics we covered:
- Voir Dire (Jury Selection) –> aka my favorite part of a trial
- Opening Statements
- Direct Examination
- Admitting exhibits into evidence
- How to deal with expert witnesses
- Cross examination
- Closing Argument
Judge Buckley was very thorough with his instruction and also very supportive — his critiques were always couched in compliments and supportive statements. After he would lecture on a given topic, the very next week our assignment would be to do whatever he had just taught us. We had weeks of practice on all of the topics I just mentioned, leading up to our “final trial” at the end of the semester.
I loved when we did a mock voir dire. I have watched a few trials, and jury selection is always super fascinating to me. I love trying to guess what the jurors’ back stories are or what their cockamamie excuse for trying to get off the jury will be. (Side-note: Don’t complain to me about having jury duty — it is the ONLY requirement imposed on US citizens that is not imposed on non-citizens. Civic duty, pinnacle of democracy…you get where I’m going).
Another particularly cool thing we did was conduct class at a real courtroom where Judge Buckley works, at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in DTLA. We had to reschedule our normal class, so we met on a Friday afternoon in his chambers, and each presented an Opening Statement and a Closing Argument. It was a particularly cool and memorable class.
For our final exam, we prepared a final trial from beginning to end. I faced off against my friend and law school rival, Taylor.
I represented the Defendant manufacturer (Acme) of an mechanical cigarette lighter. Taylor represented the Plaintiff, whose mother was killed when she used the lighter and it burst into flames. No winner was declared, but I think everyone in the room knew the deceased’s injuries were caused by blatant product misuse, and ignoring the labels and warnings on the product itself and on the instructions included in the box.
We even had friends come in and play witnesses which was fun. Taylor tried to get his girlfriend to cry on the stand — she couldn’t quite fake it, but she was a champ in letting us practice with her multiple times.
After the final, the Judge gave us some really great substantive feedback. I overused the word “tragic” and could have built up my expert a little more in my opening — those were two of the biggest take-aways.
It was a great class and experience and a nice change of pace from the doctrinal classes that fill up the rest of the semester.
Finally, to end the semester, last night Judge Buckley took our class out for dinner and drinks. We spent about two hours last night at The Yardhouse joking, telling stories, and re-capping the semester. Taylor and I were on the same mock arbitration team last year and also externed together, so we had fun telling everyone about some of the ridiculous lawyering we’ve witnesses over the years.
Have you ever gotten drinks with a professor? (In a non-creepy way, of course)
During my 1L year, one of our professors organized a night out at a Mexican restaurant with all of our 1L professors. It was so fun to see them in a different context!
Law people: Favorite class in law school?
I liked Trial Ad a lot, but overall so far mine is probably Evidence (or Con Law…it’s tough).