Slideshow: Legal studies students present oral arguments
by Ahliil Saitanan |
The practice of law is always geared in one way or another toward making arguments in front of a judge or jury. Trial and Advanced Litigation Processes (LEGL A487) embraces this through requiring students to prepare for and participate in two “hands on” activities—an oral argument in front of a judge on a legal brief written by the students, and a simulated trial with examination of witnesses. For the oral argument assignment, pictured in the slideshow, students are provided a legal motion and a simple set of pleadings, along with a list of legal cases relevant to the motion. Students are required to draft a legal brief either supporting or opposing the motion. Students must then argue their brief in front of an actual judge.
“I know that students get nervous standing in front of a real judge and having to defend their briefs, but my hope is that the exercise gives them confidence in their ability to think through and explain the law,” says associate professor Ryan Fortson, the instructor in Trial and Advanced Litigation Processes. “This assignment requires students to explore in depth a complicated legal issue and really examine how legal arguments are constructed.”
The assignment prepares students to be able to transfer those skills to legal research projects either in the legal field or in law school. For the written portion of the assignment, students are expected to produce a document that looks like one that would be filed in court. Students thus learn proper document formatting and legal writing style. “And having the chance to argue their brief in front of a judge is the reward for all of their hard work," Fortson says. Oral arguments this semester took place in the Alaska Supreme Court Courtroom in front of Alaska Supreme Court Justice Jennifer S. Henderson.
“Students really appreciate appearing before an actual judge and receiving feedback. Several students have commented to me that it has inspired them to pursue their legal careers further,” Fortson says. When possible, students travel to a judge’s courtroom for oral argument, but in the near future, the Legal Studies program will have its own trial simulation courtroom, constructed to resemble courtrooms in the Alaska Court system. This new classroom will expand the reach of the Legal Studies program into the local legal community, and within UAA, the hope is that the presence of a simulated courtroom will encourage more students to experience Legal Studies courses.
"Public speaking and critical thinking skills are important not just in the legal field, but in everyday life. Even students who do not want to become paralegals or go to law school will benefit from taking Legal Studies courses," Fortson says.
- Are you interested in a career in the legal field? Learn more about the Legal Studies program here at the Justice Center!
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