Lawyer Advocacy: Required Skills Training in the Second Year
All Georgia State law students must take Lawyering Advocacy in the spring semester of their second year. The course is taught in small sections of 12 students by a practicing lawyer, with students handling two cases.
The first, a civil dispute, takes the students from client interviewing, initial pleadings and discovery, to briefing and arguing a motion for summary judgment. The second case is either a criminal or civil matter (student’s choice) and takes them through preparing the elements of a jury trial from pre-trial motions, opening statements, examinations of witnesses and closing arguments. The course concludes with students, in teams of two, trying their cases at the DeKalb County courthouse before a jury of first year students.
Although the course is designed around litigation, the focus is on developing skills that students will need regardless of which area of practice they choose. The course sharpens students’ skills in legal and factual analysis, asking questions, listening, writing persuasively, thinking tactically, organizing facts and legal arguments, teamwork, oral advocacy and acting professionally and ethically.
Students respond favorably to the course with over 90 percent reporting, year after year, that they found the course “worthwhile.”
The students appreciate that there is more to being a good lawyer than just knowing substantive law. As one student wrote: “This is one of the few classes in law school that taught us the practical side of the legal profession.”
And other student commented: “I learned more practical and useful skills in this single class from my professor than I did in the rest of my entire law school career.”
The principal asset of the program is the incredibly dedicated and talented attorneys who devote their precious free time and energies to give our students a real-world introduction to the challenges, responsibilities, frustrations and exhilarations of practicing law. The director of the program, a full-time faculty member, provides the practicing attorneys with all the materials, course structure, and guidance they need so that they are free to devote most of their energy to working with the students on developing their skills.
The other irreplaceable asset of the program is the small, 12 student sections that allow the students to get to know the professor and each other very well in an intensive, skill nurturing environment. Learning by doing is the core philosophy of the program and this requires small sections.
Finally, the course is taught at the same time as Professional Responsibility and right before most students will have their first summer jobs in the legal field. The aim is to send them out into the real world not only with good lawyer skills but also a commitment to professionalism.