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Advice for Law Students

2Lacoste

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Advice for Law Students
« on: February 02, 2006, 09:35:43 PM »
Randomly felt like sharing.  I'm a nerd.  This all is particularly for future Trial and Appellate Litigators:

Today I attended a panel comprised of four of the top Hispanic judges in New York State:

Hon. Sonia Sotomayor, US Second Circuit Court of Appeals
Hon. Arthur Gonzalez, US Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of NY
Hon. Charles Tejada, New York State Supreme Court, Acting Justice
Hon. Analisa Torres, New York State Supreme Court, Acting Justice


Because of a family connection (that I just discovered) to these judges, I was able to ask them a few questions in private.  The top questions I asked were:  What are the top skills young lawyers (trial or appellate litigators mainly) need to succeed?  What is the best advice you can give young lawyers?

The general consensus?

1.  UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE GETTING YOURSELF INTO:  Trial and appellate litigation require a lot of work, yes.  But the kicker is that you have to be at the whim of wacky judges and clients -- often you need to get work done with great haste (before some inanely placed pending deadline).  Undersatnd this and You'll be fine. 

2.  WRITING, WRITING, WRITING, AND WRITING DAMNIT!!!   This was the most important factor stressed and the subject of most of the advice: work on your writing.  Learn to make your briefs succinct and comprehensive simultaneously.  One judge even went so far as to say, "eliminate all adjectives and adverbs from your briefs."  Damn!  Your briefs win cases for you -- oral arguments never win you cases, stated one judge.  These briefs must be clear and persuasive.  One judge advised reading each brief aloud while editing (which they all agreed you should do multiple times).

One judge suggested that you ask, "WHAT IS MY PURPOSE WITH THIS (BRIEF, MOTION, CASE, MEMORANDUM OF LAW, ETC.)?"  She said that if you ask that question before you start working, and then ask, "HOW WILL THIS ACTIVITY ACCOMPLISH THAT PURPOSE?", your work will be so much better.  The judges could not stress more the importance of keeping briefs short (i.e. 10-20 pages or so) while making sure to hit each and every element of the law, thus making your case, and showing that the opposition had nothing against you on any of those elements. 

Judge Sotomayor in particular wanted all her briefs "short and sweet," meaning: precise in the statement of facts, all quotes in context, addressing negative precedent and handling it (as opposed to avoiding or hiding it), and playing to your strengths while acknowledging your weaknesses.

3.  ORAL ADVOCACY:  Practice speeches in mirrors aloud at least three times.  For appellate litigators, think up every possible hypothetical that would make your position untenable and find an alternative approach (so that your case doesn't get thrown out because of fear of unintended consequences).  Be prepared to answer all kinds of off-the-path questions from judges who probably haven't even read your briefs.

---

Most of y'all are probably up on all this already, but for me as a 0L, it was an eye-opening experience.  Hearing from a federal appellate judge when I want to one day end up arguing cases before someone like her was an invaluable asset.  It helped to focus my own self-improvement program (gotta get on them writing skills, like they said)!

Any of y'all looking at trial or appellate litigation?

Slow Blues

Re: Advice for Law Students
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2006, 06:14:31 AM »
I've thought about litigation and I'll think about and look into it more when I'm actually in school, but I was leaning toward corporate and tax law.

THE BLUE SWEATER

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Re: Advice for Law Students
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2006, 01:44:18 PM »
UUUMMMM because ots arguably the most competitive time consuming, and stressful type of law out there.

A.

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Re: Advice for Law Students
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2006, 02:41:08 PM »
Arguably indeed.

THE BLUE SWEATER

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Re: Advice for Law Students
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2006, 10:32:35 PM »
Yeah Im sure people would dispute that. But I couldnt imagine anything more stressful than litigation.

shaz

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Re: Advice for Law Students
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2006, 07:27:27 AM »
my cousin is a litigator.  every time i see her she is just haggard.

anyone know the best study aides for writing and grammar? 

Re: Advice for Law Students
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2006, 07:49:12 AM »
Thanks that was great info. Crazy what they said about getting rid of adjectives from our writing.  I live for my adjectives:)

Re: Advice for Law Students
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2006, 08:34:22 AM »
my cousin is a litigator.  every time i see her she is just haggard.

anyone know the best study aides for writing and grammar? 

Strunk and White's Elements of Writing is a wonderful guide.

2Lacoste

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Re: Advice for Law Students
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2006, 08:56:09 AM »
Strunk and White is the polished writer's BIBLE.  Must-read.

A.

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Re: Advice for Law Students
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2006, 10:23:58 AM »
Agreed.  Once you have S&W down, pick up the Chicago Manual of Style.