Category Archives: Class Prep

Talk the Talk: Law Library Resources Enhance Oral Advocacy

Lawyers and librarians alike have a way with words, spending much of their time with books and internet databases, reading, researching, and writing. But we also must step up and let our voices be heard. Whether law students are undergoing the first year rite of passage of delivering oral arguments in their finest legal attire or honing their presentations for a moot court championship, the librarians can help budding public speakers maximize their persuasiveness.

Students preparing for the Legal Advocacy argument should check out the Law Library’s First Year Legal Writing page. This research guide points to useful resources for modeling and enhancing oral arguments. Our print study skills collection includes the updated classic Little Book on Oral Argument, which can help students nervous about public speaking channel their energy into a powerful oratorical performance. Other resources include commentary from legal communication experts and a late U.S. Supreme Court justice.

We point you to resources such as an online treatise titled Art of Advocacy—Appeals, which provides tips on presenting and engaging and persuasive case, with full length, annotated examples of effective oral arguments from which students can draw lessons about tone, style, and structure. It also helps prepare students preparing for a career in litigation for what to expect in navigating judicial procedures at courthouses.

The library also provides links to archives that enable students to observe real world court proceedings across the country, including in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Arizona Court of Appeals, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Arizona. Students may learn from the examples of the professionals, and get a sense of how quickly the judges will begin peppering them with questions.

The library’s Advanced Legal Writing: Persuasion guide includes further resources to help orators prepare persuasive presentations. Books include discussions of cognitive science as the basis for recommending certain persuasive techniques, and provide concrete examples of effective rhetorical tools to employ in writing as well as oral argument.

For critiques of your oral argument’s content and technique, contact your professor or teaching assistant. And for more guidance on library resources, feel free to Meet with a Librarian.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

May It Please Your Prof: The Law Library Can Help You Develop Your Persuasive Skills

Legal research is not a one size fits all process. Different tasks require different strategies, different databases, different secondary sources. Few assignments will be as jarringly different as the first semester objective memo and second semester persuasive brief in Legal Advocacy class.

The Law Library is here to help. Our JD holding reference librarians have all been through the transition from dispassionate legal analysis to loyal, tenacious persuasion. If you make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian, we can help you avoid some of the pitfalls that can befall all research and find all you need to state your best case in court.

We can critique your research trail. Looking over your research and refining your strategies and search terms can make sure you can find your opponent’s best case to defuse it before it’s thrown at you.

We can also point to secondary sources that will be helpful for your particular assignment. Objective treatises and encyclopedias can help you grasp the law in the beginning. Practice guides can help you make sure you’re fully representing your client’s interests. And persuasive law review articles that can inspire you to construct your own arguments for why the law should be interpreted in favor of your client.

The librarians can also suggest texts and treatises that can build the writing skills necessary to craft a compelling brief. See our First Year Legal Writing and Persuasive Legal Writing research guides to get a jump start on honing your craft. The guides discuss everything from effective organization of your document, to choosing the best words to change a judge’s mind.

And our assistance doesn’t end with the four corners of your document, because we can help make sure your oral argument pleases your professor. We have a number of guides from the experts on how to craft compelling presentations for your judges, and how to field their questions to advance your client’s interests. We also have tips for calming and channeling the nervous energy that comes from facing a panel of decision makers in your best suit. To improve your skills, few things are more effective than watching the experts, so you should also check out our our compilation of links to oral argument recordings from the Ninth Circuit, Arizona Court of Appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court.

Finally, even with the experience of Bluebooking your first objective memos behind you, citation can be tricky. We are more than happy to field questions about your citation sentences; just Ask a Law Librarian.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Flash Cards and Flowcharts: Optimizing Study for Your Learning Style

Legal study aids are increasingly catering to the vast diversity of learning methods that suit different students best, from visual aids such as flow charts to practice questions to audio and visual resources. Below we have highlighted tools for creating and accessing flow charts (great for visual learners) and flashcards (useful when you need to memorize a lot of information). We highly recommend adding these study tools to your class and exam prep process.

FLOWCHARTS
Flowcharts guide you through a legal issue, asking questions about the facts each step of the way to determine whether an element applies, and whether the analysis should continue. The structure of arrows and boxes is a big help for visual learners who quickly absorb information in tools such as graphics and maps. It can also help break down a complicated legal analysis into manageable, bite size bits, demystifying questions about estates in land or the Erie doctrine.

You can make your own flowcharts in Google Slides. Check out this short how-to video from our Electronic Resources Librarian, Sean Harrington, to learn more. You can choose shapes with the shapes tool that symbolize steps along the way of a legal analysis, such as rectangles for yes or no questions and ovals for the various potential outcomes of the analysis. The line tool includes an option with arrows to help you organize a complicated analysis, including curves and angled lines to help you fit all elements of a rule into your document. Making your own flowchart helps you process the rules yourself, and understand the process in a different way from traditional distilling of the rules into words alone.

The Law Library also offers access to commercial resources with flowcharts through its online study aids subscriptions and print study aids collection; specifically, check out the Emanuel Crunch Time series (available electronically on Wolters Kluwer).

FLASHCARDS
It’s no secret that part of the challenge of studying law is memorizing vast swaths of information. It’s a big part of the bar exam. Your outline is an important part of that process of committing the law to your memory, but reading and rereading does not always work optimally for everyone – that’s where flashcards come in handy.

The Law Library also has a collection of flashcards in its study skills section, and our online study aid platforms have additional resources that may be helpful. Writing your own cards can help you process the information on a much deeper level, though, as you process the law and craft your own rule statements. Here again, Sean Harrington has a video on how Google Slides can help.

Meet with a Librarian for more study tips!

Warming Up to Cold Calls: The Socratic Method

As a law student you experience the Socratic Method instructional model, which is based on the asking and answering of questions in class with the goal of stimulating critical thinking. 

The Law School Academic Support Blog has advice on turning the Socratic Method into a positive experience:

  • Predict: Think about the answers to questions you hear frequently in class while you are doing your class preparation.
  • Contextualize: Consider the case not only on its own, but in the context of other cases you’ve read and the development of legal doctrines.
  • Pause: A deep breath can be the difference between a well thought out answer and a blurted out mistake.
  • Relax: Your classmates are not judging you because they are busy taking notes, feeling relieved they are not on the spot, or preparing to answer next.

Here are more tips from the reference librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library.

  • Find your study aid: The law library offers a variety of guides so you can find a study strategy for your particular learning style and understand the cases before you go to class. Study aids may include more information than your professor’s syllabus covers, so don’t sweat the irrelevant stuff. Learn more about study aids hereNew Student Resource Guide: Study Materials and here How Do I Know Which Study Guides are Right for Me?
  • Case briefing: Whether you are highlighting, book briefing by marking the areas of text containing issue statements or the controlling rule, or composing marginalia as you study and write your case brief, focus on identifying the most important facts, rules, and the reasons for the court’s decision. Are you highlighting all the facts, or zeroing in on the key details? It’s a skill you can learn, and CALI provides a lesson on effective case briefing.
  • Active listening: Try to imagine how you would answer if you were on the hot seat when a classmate is talking. If you pay attention to what the professor tests your classmates on, you can give yourself an edge for finals week. Learn more about active listening here, Active Listening and here, Listening Skills in the Law School Classroom.
  • Meet with a Librarian: With JDs and experience instructing students, the reference librarians can help you find study aids and research strategies that will help you succeed in doctrinal and writing courses, even though they cannot help you interpret your cases. Make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian or contact us with questions: Ask a Law Librarian.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian