This past weekend, I got to experience, first hand, what it will be like to prepare a full trial and then to argue it.
Now, at my job, I currently get the experience of preparing for trials, watching depositions, writing briefs, responding to all types of correspondence and so much more. The thing that I don't get to do, however, is argue a case in front of a judge. In fact, my job makes it seem near impossible to argue the case even after all of the preparation because you just never know what will come out of the client's mouth and you never know what tricks opposing counsel has up his/her sleeve (also, some clients struggle immensely with telling the full truth.) But, I'm going to walk you through my experience:
Preparing for this trial was difficult because we were literally preparing for the unknown. Throughout the semester, we were walked through the various parts of trials during a lecture and then we were given an additional class to demonstrate what we had learned. Each demo-class gave me about as much anxiety as the actual trial did. I have never experienced the physical symptoms of anxiety and fear that I experienced on the days leading up to this trial.
Also, my partner/co-counsel and I are both very shy students with insane stage fright. We do not like talking in front of people! So, to have that anxiety weighing heavily on us on top of being afraid of looking unprepared, let's just say that we had a very unstable couple of weeks leading up to the trial. Luckily for us, we understand each other and although I'm sure I got on his nerves, I am beyond proud of my co-counsel!
We both prepared the ways that we knew how and brought it all together prior to the big day.
By the morning of the trial, I had already accepted the fact that I was going to have to go through with the trial. There was no backing out (I would never do that to my co-counsel), there was no changing my arguments, it was showtime.
Now, it's true what they say, dress for the role you want. But, instead of the traditional women-in-a-suit while entering the courtroom, I went for a more modern day take on it. I wore a pure white dress that had beautiful yellow, orange and green sunflowers at the bottom with a tuxedo blazer from the Tracee Ellis Ross Collection and black and white Nine West heels. The three male attorneys, of course, wore suits ranging from blue to black.
I think the worst seconds, minutes, and hours of the trial were the ones immediately before we retired to the judges chambers to argue our pre-trial motions. The unknown. The unexpected. The unwanted.
Once we got past the motions, we were introduced to the jury and then began our voir dire. I'll fast forward through all of the specifics and say that: opening statements came after the jury selection, we (prosecution) then gave our case-in-chief and then defense gave theirs, there were closing arguments and then the jury retired to deliberate. However, due to unfortunate events of the day, the jury was not able to deliberate long enough to reach a verdict, but the judge did offer us feedback.
Overall, the trial experience was not as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, it could get confusing or bogged down with what seem like outlandish arguments, but you become very invested because it is still your job to put on your case. Although you are arguing for fake or imaginative clients, you still want justice for them. In reading the facts over and over, you begin to picture the parties involved, the scenes that will be discussed, and you want to win because you've now seen these things. It was definitely a great experience.
There's nothing like celebrating being done with something that you and your fellow classmates found difficult or uncomfortable.
Entering the world of law introduces you to some very interesting people that you (maybe) wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to meet before. We all enter one way and then slowly become these law-obsessed weirdos with dark senses of humor, so just imagine what our celebration looks like!
We literally sat at a bar at 4 p.m. and talked about law for hours and it was FUN! After that, we'd decided that we would go home, shower and change to go out once again. By that point I was quickly reminded that we're all old weird nerds and staying up past 8 p.m. is hard. I didn't even make it out because, by about 8:30 p.m., I was knocked out on the couch.
So, I guess law students celebrate big things by getting the rest that they missed out on leading up to the big day(s)!
Overall, the experience was invaluable.