In what appears to be a growing series of tips for current law students, let’s focus on the benefits of participating in a trial competition. I will caution you that many of the rumors are true: The workload can be staggering and you should expect to practice anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a week.
Hard work notwithstanding, the rewards are well worth it. So, with that in mind, and with a devil-may-care attitude, I give you the 10 reasons every 1L or 2L should consider trying out for their school’s trial team.
1. Through your intensive practices, you’ll learn to quickly develop and articulate a persuasive argument, as other practitioners, and more importantly, your clients, will expect. Can you imagine arguing motions and using “fillers” such as “um” during your pauses? Seems ridiculous, but most people use them in daily conversations. With guidance and occasional glares from your coach, those fillers will likely disappear.
2. You’ll develop a better understanding of the rules of evidence. Evidence class is insightful, but in my opinion, too academic. Nothing can replace the experience of making objections and arguments based on evidentiary rules. As you can imagine, nothing is more embarrassing than being objected to and not having a response to the objection. Or, objecting, but not knowing why. “Objection, that’s devastating to my case!” is not going to cut it.
3. You get a free trip! Well, you probably will, unless you compete in a local competition. At my law school, the trial teams competed in Sacramento, Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, and Stanford University.
4. It is a great opportunity to get near-daily one-on-one guidance from an experienced practitioner. In my case, my coach was the Hon. Thomas Francyzk, an Erie County Court Judge and former Buffalo prosecutor.
5. In that same vein, it is a great opportunity to meet attorneys in the area, not just that coach but numerous others who volunteer to evaluate your performances.
6. The frequency of practices helps you not only learn how to give an opening statement, direct examination, cross examination, and closing statement, but to look confident and comfortable while doing it.
7. Which leads to my next point: You’ll acquire an air of confidence and comfort with yourself, but also with how you interact with others. More importantly, when you are asked by a partner at a firm to resolve a CDS possession case of a favorite client’s child, you’ll have some intensive trial advocacy experience under your belt.
8. You may get class credit!
9. You’ll get a taste of what you’ll experience if you choose to become a litigator. While the format is not exact, it is close. As mentioned, you’ll learn how to give an opening and closing statement and perform a direct and cross examination. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to construct different arguments and use them in front of experienced practitioners.
10. Finally, during these tough economic times, having trial team experience may help you stand out from the rest. Why? Because attorneys know the commitment required to participate in trial team. More importantly, they know of the tremendous benefits its participants will obtain through this rigorous but rewarding experience.
With that in mind, I hope you consider trying out for your law school’s trial team. It may be intimidating at first, but with practice, hard work, and dedication, I am confident you can succeed.
Consider my own experience. I joined and did not have any trial experience. Suffice to say I was intimidated at the prospect of competing in only a few months. But, with hard work, many, MANY questions and help from the coaches and teammates, I began to learn. By the end, I was eager to compete and did well.
That I use those skills to this day is an added bonus. If you happen to join, I am sure you’ll have a similar outlook.