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Author Topic: public speaking  (Read 1229 times)

phooey

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public speaking
« on: June 30, 2006, 07:43:23 PM »
So during our first year of law school, I'm sure we'll all have that "oh crap" moment when we realize we will have to start doing oral arguments for professors and judges soon (at my school, you have to do an oral argument before a panel of judges as part of legal writing).  Speaking casually in class doesn't bother me at all, but I personally haven't done a lot of formal public speaking in the past. I had one semi-significant experience with it when I presented some research at my university's undergraduate research symposium, but it was nothing compared to what surely awaits us in law school.

So are you freaked?  I'm worried about being overly nervous and having that affect my performance, because, like I said, I haven't had a lot of practice yet.  I'm sure I'll get used to it, but I'm know I'll be very anxious at first: shaking voice, trembling hands, nervous rambling, etc.

Anyone else?  Maybe some 2L's or anyone with lots of public speaking experience can offer some tips/perspective..

J D

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Re: public speaking
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2006, 09:13:39 PM »
Moot court is not that bad once you're up there doing it, though it does cause a lot of anxiety and nervousness beforehand, which is natural.  Really, I didn't find it much different from answering questions in class: that's really what the experience comes down to, mastering a particular legal issue and being prepared to answer virtually any question about it that you can think of.  It usually helps to have a "canned" opening and closing sentence that you start with, and that you end with when you notice time running short (provided the panel gives you a free moment to conclude).  But the time in the middle, you will mostly be answering questions from the panel, rather than presenting a prepared argument.

If it makes you feel any better, there's a lot of crappy advocacy out there in the real world.  I've already seen some of it in my summer job.  It's not that hard to be better than they are.  ;)
"I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough."--Albert Einstein

fainana

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Re: public speaking
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2006, 09:57:55 PM »
Being prepared is the key. I've done a lot of public speaking/appearing before a panel type things, and if you are confident and have thought everything through, the preparedness overshadows the nerves and you'll do fine. Now, as to whether you'll have time to adequately prepare, that's another story...

aerynn

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Re: public speaking
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2006, 10:34:08 PM »
I have TONS of public speaking experience, although not in a legal context.  Preparedness is key.  Also, if you can have a friend or several friends or family members act as audience members it will help.  Try to listen for irritating bad speaking habits, like saying "um" or "ah" when you are thinking of the next thing to say.  Not doing those verbal fillers will make you sound much more polished even if you are not.

Be mindful of your body language.  Stand in front of a mirror and go over some body language.  Think of how you stand, where you put your hands.  Suddenly in front of an audience it will be tough to remember what to do with your hands!

Make eye contact as much as possible.  Not only will it engage your audience, but it will get to you lose reliance on reading your notes and make you seem like you know it cold (which you should).

Speak slower than you think you should.  When you are nervous, the adrenaline will make everything SEEM slow, but to your calm audience members you will sound like an auctionier.

I don't know if this is appropriate in a legal presentation context, but make eye contact and smile within the first 3-5 seconds.  Smile fully, showing your teeth, or it will look fake and sarcastic.  I would think in most public speaking contexts, even if you can pull off a quick flash of a smile at your audience and a "Thank you" (for inviting you to speak, for the intro, for calling you up, etc) could make you seem warm and genuine, relaxed and confident, even if after that you turn serious and make a very professional presentation.

That's all I got for general public speaking tips.  :)
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J D

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Re: public speaking
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2006, 10:41:57 PM »
Being prepared is the key. I've done a lot of public speaking/appearing before a panel type things, and if you are confident and have thought everything through, the preparedness overshadows the nerves and you'll do fine. Now, as to whether you'll have time to adequately prepare, that's another story...

Yes, you'll have time.  At my school, at least, I think they gave us about 2 weeks to write the first draft of the brief, and another week to revise it, and then between 1-3 weeks between the time the brief was due and oral argument (depending on when they scheduled you).  If you do your research well the first time around, that should be more than enough time to crank out a well-drafted 10 pages of argument on an issue (and then handling the rest of the brief is pretty mechanical, and the hardest part is formatting for many people).  And you know there are some questions they will ALWAYS (or almost always) ask you, like "what authority (cases) do you rely on for proposition X?" or "what do you consider the case or cases which most strongly support your position?"

And another thing to remember when appearing before the panel, which may be even more important than a "polished" presentation style: DEMEANOR.  When your brother or sister at the bar (a polite term for opposing counsel that we use a lot here in MA) is speaking, sit up straight, pay attention, and don't make faces (roll your eyes, curl your upper lip in disgust, etc), even if what they say is completely assinine.  When the judge is talking, you are not.  When you respond to a question, always address the judge who asked it, either by name, or simply as "Your Honor," rather than giving a blunt, direct response (i.e., good: "Well, Your Honor, I would disagree with that proposition, because..." whereas bad: "No, because...").
"I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough."--Albert Einstein

J D

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Re: public speaking
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2006, 10:47:44 PM »
I have TONS of public speaking experience, although not in a legal context.  Preparedness is key.  Also, if you can have a friend or several friends or family members act as audience members it will help.  Try to listen for irritating bad speaking habits, like saying "um" or "ah" when you are thinking of the next thing to say.  Not doing those verbal fillers will make you sound much more polished even if you are not.

Be mindful of your body language.  Stand in front of a mirror and go over some body language.  Think of how you stand, where you put your hands.  Suddenly in front of an audience it will be tough to remember what to do with your hands!

Make eye contact as much as possible.  Not only will it engage your audience, but it will get to you lose reliance on reading your notes and make you seem like you know it cold (which you should).

Speak slower than you think you should.  When you are nervous, the adrenaline will make everything SEEM slow, but to your calm audience members you will sound like an auctionier.

I don't know if this is appropriate in a legal presentation context, but make eye contact and smile within the first 3-5 seconds.  Smile fully, showing your teeth, or it will look fake and sarcastic.  I would think in most public speaking contexts, even if you can pull off a quick flash of a smile at your audience and a "Thank you" (for inviting you to speak, for the intro, for calling you up, etc) could make you seem warm and genuine, relaxed and confident, even if after that you turn serious and make a very professional presentation.

That's all I got for general public speaking tips.  :)

Agree with everything except the smiling part.  Though it may be appropriate in most other contexts, in the context of moot court (where you are usually dealing with a case involving someone who's been seriously hurt or egregiously wronged in some way), it'll often just make you look goofy or flippant.  People are in court because they're unhappy and upset; the overall mood is a very formal and serious one.  The ones who should be responsible for lightening the mood with humor, etc, are the judges; take your cues from them, and follow their lead.  If they are smiling, then smile, but I'd say it's probably best not to do so on your own initiative.
"I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough."--Albert Einstein

aerynn

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Re: public speaking
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2006, 10:54:02 PM »
Agree with everything except the smiling part.  Though it may be appropriate in most other contexts, in the context of moot court (where you are usually dealing with a case involving someone who's been seriously hurt or egregiously wronged in some way), it'll often just make you look goofy or flippant.  People are in court because they're unhappy and upset; the overall mood is a very formal and serious one.  The ones who should be responsible for lightening the mood with humor, etc, are the judges; take your cues from them, and follow their lead.  If they are smiling, then smile, but I'd say it's probably best not to do so on your own initiative.

Fair enough.  It is probably because I am a chick.  People expect women to smile no matter what happens, even if you have to make a "frowny face" immediately after.
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168/3.67
In: Emory($$), UGA ($), W&M ($$), GW($)
Waitlisted:American(W), UVA (W)
http://lawschoolnumbers.com/display.php?user=aerynn

J D

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Re: public speaking
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2006, 10:57:52 PM »
Also keep in mind that, at many schools, you'll have at least one practice session with your legal writing instructor and maybe the TA before you have to argue before the "real" moot court panel (it's kind of an oxymoron: moot court exercises are what practicing lawyers use in order to prepare for oral arguments before real appellate courts like the US Court of Appeals).  So, in a way, you might say that they give you a moot court for the moot court.   :)
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mobo

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Re: public speaking
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2006, 01:29:28 AM »
toastmasters.org

it is also a great way to network with professionals who live in your town/city, and if you are in a big city, the odds are high that you can find a toastmasters that caters to the legal community.

BoscoBreaux

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Re: public speaking
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2006, 04:39:30 PM »
So during our first year of law school, I'm sure we'll all have that "oh crap" moment when we realize we will have to start doing oral arguments for professors and judges soon (at my school, you have to do an oral argument before a panel of judges as part of legal writing).

I never minded (too much) the formal prepared speaking opportunities (mock trial, oral arguments, etc.) I hated the daily socratic grind in classes 10 times more! At least the former allows you to prepare. In class, no one is fully prepared, and it goes on for an hour at a time, day after day after day. And of course, you will always be called on to talk about the one case you barely read, and failed to prepare.