Untangling Students’ Fears about 1L Oral Arguments

By: Professor Heidi Brown

It’s 1L oral argument season again. Many legal writing faculty colleagues are eagerly gearing up to schedule argument practice rounds for their students as part of the course curriculum. I’ll admit, this component of our 1L legal writing curriculum gives me residual angst. I sit in my office staring at my syllabus and wishing my students could just slide their appellate briefs into a dropbox and skip right to summer break. I know, I know…I’m the educator now, not the traumatized 1L student I once was. My disastrous oral argument was nearly three decades ago. I should be over it by now, right? I should be excited to impart wisdom to my students about the substance and style of oral persuasion. I’m not. Instead, I absorb the anxiety and fear that many of them experience about this law school rite of passage. The anxiety and fear are real. They’re palpable. Continue reading “Untangling Students’ Fears about 1L Oral Arguments”

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Empowering Nervous Students in Oral Arguments

By: Professor Heidi K. Brown

For many law students, the unpredictability of the 1L oral argument experience poses a daunting challenge, even more than an intimidating Socratic classroom exchange. Some well-meaning mentors urge reticent advocates to “fake it till you make it,” “just prepare and practice and you’ll be fine,” or “if you’re nervous, it just means you care.” Unfortunately, these slogans do not help apprehensive students and instead, can exacerbate anxiety. A better strategy for helping our hesitant students succeed, and hopefully thrive, at oral argument includes (1) acknowledging the reality of fear in performance-oriented lawyering events, (2) providing adequate context about the logistics of the scenario, and (3) modeling substantive mental and physical preparation techniques. Continue reading “Empowering Nervous Students in Oral Arguments”

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