Every fall when new JD students matriculate law school it can be an overwhelming process. From the demands of a new professional graduate program, to reading material several times over to try to make sense of it, to navigating a new legal language, to deciding what co-curricular opportunities to consider—the challenges are many.
Beyond the readings and process of “figuring out law school,” the first-year students begin to wonder, how do I make the most of my JD education? One answer to that question is trying out for an advocacy team.
Brooke Bowman, Professor of Law at the nation’s top advocacy school, believes “learning real-world applicable skills while in law school is a huge benefit to students. New law school students should not be forgoing this hands-on education.” Bowman has seen students in the past “sit on the sidelines” and she believes it is a bad decision to do that.
Getting “uncomfortable” while in law school is hugely beneficial and is often when the greatest learning opportunities happen — embrace it.
Bowman offers up the following suggestions that could help new law students navigate the “hands-on” experiential learning with suggestions for preparing for Advocacy Board tryouts.
1. Prepare even before matriculating law school.
Get to know the opportunities available once you get to law school. Review websites and meet with Pre-Law faculty and advisors at your respective college. Get involved with college Mock Trial or Moot Court teams, or at least go watch some practices and competitions.
Consider watching a trial or an appellate argument at your local courthouse. Be an observer and listen for the organization of the argument and how the attorneys ask or answer questions, and watch how the attorney's conduct themselves in court. For example, look at the non-verbals like hand gestures, posture, body language, etc.
You may even consider watching live stream court proceedings, like Gavel to Gavel, a Supreme Court of Florida Online Video Portal. Even the bad arguments are worth watching because there is something you can learn!
2. Learn about your law school’s processes.
If you have an interest in developing advocacy skills in law school, find out who is in charge of the Advocacy Boards—Dispute Resolution, Trial Team, or Moot Court Board—at your law school and make it a point to meet him/her.
Knock on office doors and ask questions! Talk to 2L or 3L students on the Advocacy Boards and find out what the tryout process is and attend any announced information sessions.
Note that most law schools are choosing their teams at some point in the second semester of the first year. Don’t forget that your success in law school classes is a given necessity for team participation — grades matter!
3. The goal is to avoid the pitfalls, and there are many.
- Remember you are being “watched” by members of the faculty and administration at all times, so don’t forget you are a member of a professional community.
- Seek opportunities for feedback and learn to use it to your benefit. If you are only receiving positive feedback, don’t stop listening! Improvement happens, so keep pursuing it.
- Likability is important to juries and judges in competitions and in the real world. Hopefully, it comes natural to you, but if not, work on your interpersonal skills.
- Conform to the expectations of the profession. Consider conservative professional dress while doing any professional school related activities, follow instructions, and maintain a neatly groomed appearance to enhance your professional reputation.
- Be prepared. Lack of preparation in any aspect of professional school or professional life will “take you down!” Judges can always tell if you are not prepared. Don’t wing it.
- Don’t try to be perfect; it is not possible. And don’t lose your composure – judges will try to rattle you! And no tears, at least not when the judge or colleagues are present. Tears are better shed in the comfort of your own car on the long ride home.
Here’s to your success in navigating law school — consider trying out for a team or focusing on real-world applicable skills and this could distinguish your law school experience!