Topic: Appellate Brief
Now that two weeks of the second semester have gone by, I’m starting to feel like I’m totally back into the swing of things. Winter break came and went. I finally got my first semester grades, so I can officially stop thinking about Fall semester. Now I’ve got a fresh set of classes to work on and lots of new things to think about.
So far, my favorite change from last semester has been my writing class. Last semester, we mainly focused on writing predictive memoranda. The lessons and assignments focused on applying the law to the facts of our hypothetical clients’ situations and writing memos to our “supervising attorney” predicting what the outcome would be if the case were to go to trial. It was certainly interesting (and very important) to learn how to write this type of memo, but I like the content of this semester better. The focus has shifted to writing an appellate brief, which is addressed to a judge rather than a colleague. The major difference—and the reason I like it so much—is that now our writing needs to be persuasive. Our appellate briefs are by no means complete works of creativity; there is still a specific format that needs to be followed and there are rules about what needs to be included. However, writing persuasively allows for more wiggle room. I’ll be able to choose more vivid and descriptive words to explain the facts and how the law applies to them. Understanding and explaining the law correctly is important and interesting, but I’m very excited about the chance to use my words a little bit more creatively in order to help my clients (even though my clients are still fictional at this point).
Another exciting (and honestly, a little intimidating) aspect of this writing class is oral arguments. In the spring, the class is going to get the chance to do mock oral arguments in front of real judges! More on that later. For now, I just need to take advantage of the relative calm before the semester gets crazy. Back to reading!
For the environmental advocacy class that I’m taking with Professor Craig Johnston, I have to finish writing a 40 page brief on wetlands by Sunday evening. This has been an intense experience for me because I did not know anything about wetlands or the Clean Water Act three weeks ago. It’s been rough.
Thankfully, I’m on page 27 of my rough draft. I only have a few more pages to go. Then, editing . . . and, I’m sure there will be a lot of that!
If I am done by Sunday, I hope to watch one of my favorite professors, Professor Berres-Paul, dance at this event:
If you are in Portland, definitely stop by!
My favorite class is Legal Analysis & Writing because it teaches us real world ‘lawyerly’ skills such as writing, oral advocacy, and critical thinking. I love my professor too because she challenges us to do our best. Professor Berres-Paul is always available to help. More importantly, she is candid and direct about the quality of our work.
Last semester, we wrote three legal memos. When comparing my first memo to my final memo, I see obvious improvement in the quality and content of my writing. I am thankful that Lewis & Clark requires this class for first years and for having a fantastic professor.
This semester, our main project is to write an appellate brief and to present at the Multnomah County Courthouse in front of a three judge panel. That said, I have kept a nerdy secret from most of my classmates so that they won’t think I am overly enthusiastic. However, I think this post is a great opportunity to let the cat out of the bag: I am thrilled that we get to learn how to write persuasively and even more excited that there is an oral advocacy component! Of course, when I am required to do research and create a strong work product, I want quality and feel good when I achieve that goal. However, when adding in an oral presentation, I get an adrenaline rush. And, I love that feeling.
I’ve been awfully quiet for the last two months, mostly because school and home have both demanded a lot of attention. Our older kids have both had some health concerns, so I’ve spent a good deal of time in the last couple of months going back and forth to doctors’ appointments. And the youngest recently turned three, which…well, if you had a three year old, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, just remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoons with the Tasmanian Devil, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what life with her has been like of late!
As far as school goes, at the moment I am obsessing over the appellate brief for my legal writing class. The first semester of legal writing was all about creating memoranda with an objective tone, this semester’s project emphasizes the art of persuasion.
Just like an episode of Law & Order, the topic was ripped from the headlines. In Oregon, the voters recently passed Measure 73, which requires mandatory sentences for certain sexually related offenses. The problem has to do with whether or not minors are meant to be included within the statute’s reach. It’s been a fascinating problem to study, both because so-called “sexting” is a huge issue with teens and because there isn’t much in the way of case law out there. In making our case, we’ve had to use legislative history, law reviews, the Oregon constitution, radio/TV/newspaper reports, the voters’ pamphlet — even plain old dictionaries have come in to play.
This coming Wednesday, our class will present oral arguments at the Multnomah County Courthouse. I’m at once excited and terrified: we have excellent arguments on our side and compelling counters to opposing counsel’s arguments, so the opportunity to get up there is thrilling, but it’s a little scary to get up there and discuss something I didn’t know much about just six weeks ago. I just hope my brain doesn’t go dry while I’m being grilled by the court.