Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Court, Or Bust!

First of all, court went GREAT! During our 2L year we had to give an oral argument on our appellate briefs. That was my first experience with oral arguments and I was a wreck. I was nervous all semester. We had to give the argument in a classroom at the school and the judge was another professor and I thought I would die. And I was so nervous, I pronounced my last name wrong during introductions.

For some reason I wasn't nervous abou this oral argument at all. This time we actually had to go down to the superior court and argue in front of a REAL superior court judge. I waltzed my way through the day- putting my argument outline together last minute. Enjoying an extra long lunchbreak. on the bus ride to the court house, instead of anxiously reciting my argument to myself, I popped in my headphones and got lost in Billy Currington. I was so freakishly calm, which I though might have been to my detriment- aren't we supposed to get nervous for a reason? Aren't we supposed to scare ourselved into being better prepared? Oh well.

The thing is, this summer I got to go to a hearing on a motion for attorneys fees. I wrote the repsonse and the associate invited me to tag along to hear him reciting my arguments. The associate was so "cool" about going to court. He was even working on another case up until the time he had to leave for court. To him, it was no big deal. He went to court many, many times. I think watching him and tagging along made me realize- court isn't scary. The merits of our argument will go up against the merits of the other side and may the best party win.

So back to the other day, sitting in the marble hallway outside the courtroom, my nerves finally started to impersonate mexican jumping beans. I felt the way I used to feel before a big cross country race. Adrenaline shot through my body. But I just forced myself to relax and convined myself that I knew my shit- even if that wasn't true.

I was the moving party so, lucky me, I got to go first. I just went through the arguments like I had practiced. It is important to start out strong and to end strong. You have to tell the judge right away what relief you want. (Don't forget to reserve rebuttal time!) And the last words out of your mouth should be a statement of the relief requested.

The judge only asked me one question. I wanted him to ask me more so I wouldn't have to give a monologue argument about why I should win. But maybe it was better this way. I have no idea what I said in response. I kind of blacked out and my inner lawyer demon possessed me and put words in my mouth. But I must have done ok because I got props from my professor, who was acting as bailiff. I wish I knew what I said. The 9 minutes went by in a blur. This left me only 1 minute for rebuttal when I had originally wanted 2 minutes. You can imagine how fast I talked during my 1 minute rebuttal.

All in all, the professor said that we both did really well. Apparently I need to work on speaking more slowly (hello! how can you do that when you only have 10 minutes to argue a fact specific case?!) and make better eye contact with the judge. But I survived! One final exam down, three to go!

Who would have thought, shy widdle me thinks court is fun! I can't believe how far I've come since my 1L year, or even my 2L year. It's amazing how much you learn and change during lawschool. Let this be hope to all those 1L who think they won't make it and will never seem like a lawyer- if it can happen to me, it CAN happen to you!


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Congratulations!!! I usually find myself less nervous once I begin talking, but I am so stressed up to that point that I would never make it in a litigation practice area. Its amazing how many people catch the oral argument bug though. You might be one of them!

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Happy Thanksgiving!