Don’t Quote Me

The past two days were spent on the faculty of Cardozo Law School’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP).  If your law school doesn’t have a similar program, ask why.  If they aren’t interested, transfer. Forget law review or whatever tier your school claims.  This is what lawyers do, and if your school isn’t doing it, then you lose.

This program, taught primarily by practicing lawyers and judges, including some of the best around who fly in across the country to be a part of the gang and offer their experience, provides an experience to law students that has the potential to actually enable them to walk into a courtroom and act like a lawyer.  Professors Ellen Yaroshefsky and Barry Scheck (who is phasing himself out of running the program) have a great thing going.

For the lawyers and judges, the most fun is the opportunity to hang out, listen to the war stories and see friends that we haven’t run across in the past year.  We tend to spend some intense time with other lawyers when we work with them on a case, and then lose track as we move on to other cases with other lawyers.  They become part of the coterie of old friends, people we like, respect and wish we could speak with more often.  Of course, life makes that difficult.

The most curious aspect of this year’s ITAP experience was how many people had stories to tell me, about their cases, lawyers, experience, whatever, and at the end of the conversation, would say to me, “that’s off the record, right?”  It appears that my blawging precedes me, and it makes even old, trusted friends a little wary about what they say to me.

I’ve got my doubts about this lawyer/journalist concept, about whether what I do here qualifies me to claim amateur reporter status.  While I have, on occasion, “broken” news, and I do pass stories of interest around from time to time, most of my effort is better defined as commentary than reporting.  The ABA Journal calls my posts “rants”, but that’s only because they hate me.

However, my sense was that blawging has changed things.  Not to the extent that old friends aren’t still friends, but that they want to be sure that they are talking to Greenfield the lawyer, not Greenfield the blawger.  Their words, thoughts, complaints, interests aren’t for publication, but for talk amongst their own. 

Let there be no doubt that I’m lawyer first and blawger second.  These men and women are not my “sources”, but my friends and peers.  I’m not a mole, taking notes on every nasty word spoken or beef between the brothers.  I’m just another lawyer hanging out with my own.

Don’t worry guys. I won’t quote you. 

But I will tell one funny story.  Fifth Circuit Judge Ed Prado was in my group, along with Arizona lawprof Zelda Harris, who was our team leader.  Judge Prado (yes, I still call judges judge, even in this friendly, informal setting) was having some fun during downtime telling the law students stories about life as a federal circuit judge, and he’s quite the raconteur.  Zelda kept trying to shut him down, as his stories were more interesting than hers, and he would feign being a scolded child whenever Zelda gave him the evil eye. 

During a break, Judge Prado was talking about cowboy boots, being from San Antoine, and explained how he admired his Luccheses.  This stopped the students cold, and they stared at him in wonderment.  The judge had no idea what happened, why the students were suddenly looking at him like he was nuts.

I chimed in at that moment (cautiously, as I didn’t want to be scolded by Zelda), and said, “Judge, in New York, the name Luchese has a different meaning than it does in San Antoine.  Everybody broke up, except Zelda who admonished us to get back to work.

If you get a chance to attend ITAP, whether as student or faculty, I urge you to go for it.  It’s a great experience.

6 comments on “Don’t Quote Me

  1. Carolyn Elefant

    Is this course a requirement or an elective, and if the latter, is it tough to get into?
    How much of a time commitment is required of participants (the website says this is a 2 week program but I doubt anyone can take that much time off)?

  2. Jamison Koehler

    Rants? I don’t think so. But I do agree on the value of trial advocacy programs during law school. I had no idea I wanted to be a trial lawyer until I participated in the trial ad program at Temple. After that I was hooked. The trial ad classes also changed the pace somewhat from the traditional lecture class. And you can quote me on that.

  3. SHG

    The program is a 3 credit elective. From what Ellen said, there were about 200 students who applied for the program, and they accepted 140, which was the most they’ve ever done.  The factulty committment is a minimum of two days, but most of the out of town faculty stay for longer, many for a week.  The way the program is structured, the students get a new team of lawyers every day, so they get the value of many different perspectives on how to try a case.

  4. SHG

    Not to denigrate the value of lectures or the Socratic method, but I think the students get more juiced up over this than anything else they do in law school.  We put the screws to them, and they meet the challenge. 

  5. Dan

    Agreed. I didn’t go to Cardozo or do ITAP, but my trial advocacy class in law school (taught by adjuncts, i.e., practiners and spread out over a semester) was an absolute blast, and quite useful too. I took it as a third year and it made me wish I’d taken more skills oriented or clinical-type classes.

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