I am enrolled in Trial Advocacy this semester, which consists of a classroom lecture component once a week and an in-class performance component once a week. The class is broken up into small groups of eight students, and each group is assigned an attorney/judge to serve as the judge for the class. Every week, we conduct a direct examination, a cross-examination and serve as a witness for one of our classmates.
My first week I could not believe how nervous I was! I was even nervous to be a witness. I survived but vowed not to let my nerves get the best of me the following week. It seems as though the whole class felt the way I did because the second week went much more smoothly. Sure we all made mistakes, but everyone seemed to be breathing during their examinations. This was a big change because the first week it seemed like we were all holding our breath to see who would be called to go next.
Even though it is an intense experience, a little comedy has managed its way into our courtroom. We had some flimsy poster board exhibits that just did not want to stay upright on the easel. One classmate accidentally suggested the answer sought from the witness by shaking her head “yes,” which prompted an objection from defense counsel. By the end of the second class, I decided class was much more enjoyable and successful when I relaxed a little bit. The other thing that helped was treating the examination exercises more like a competition.
It may sound a little strange to think of Thursdays as game days – but that is exactly what I do now. I played sports all through high school and even in college, so hopefully this mindset will prove to be just as successful with oral arguments as it was with basketball. It is nice to have a class where I get to apply some of the information I have learned in law school. In all of my other classes, I sit in my seat and the professor asks me questions, but in trial advocacy we get to be the ones doing the questioning!
Chelsea Barnett, 2L