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Learning the Hard Way: The Trials of Law School


It’s no secret that law school is kind of tricky. You think one thing and later find out that the exact opposite is actually the case.

Maybe it’s just be me, but I spent the first few years of my degree, attempting to sound erudite by writing essays and problem questions in jarring legalese. Only once I reached third year did my property lecturer tell me that the best way to answer problem questions is simply and concisely. And don’t get me started on mooting.

Okay, I'm going to talk about mooting. We recently had a mock trial in Dispute Resolution and Ethics, with a guest professional as the mock judge. I entered the room feeling confident, and prepared; sporting a handy sheet with a structured argument. I had applied the law to the facts, just like the teachers always told us.

But despite what my teachers promised, I discovered that my academic knowledge had not prepared me to present my case in court.

The judge attempted to catch me out at every turn. He fired off a stream of questions, throwing me off the structured argument the course coordinator had recommended we use. Approximately halfway through my half-hour interlocutory application, I was attempting to think of a polite way to request permission to sit down and shut up. Unfortunately I couldn’t, so I plowed through, feeling completely incompetent.

This feeling continued for a very short time, until the defence stood up, and began intelligently presenting their argument, only to have a similar experience. The experience taught me that our structured arguments won’t necessarily hold sway in the rolling seas of a court trial, and that we need to be prepared to think on our feet.

Wish I’d known that before the judge made me want to cry.

What have you learnt the hard way at law school?

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