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Impassioned Passion

The art of advocacy is to fight with your head on and your heart but not the heat of passion. The professional demeanor of anyone especially lawyers, should be consideration, courtesy and appropriate cool. Law school and in life, “keeping cool” while receiving criticism can be challenging. Oral arguments are strolling into the last bit of the semester must be designed to place you in the spotlight for impassioned, passionate advocacy. A judge commented that one may not win by oral argument but certainly you may lose with one. The experience can be cherished despite the outcome, the argument is like a structured conversation. According to some of our international students, most of their advocacy takes form in oral arguments in addition to written briefs. Oral argument contains the blend of legal rules, policy and emotion but the purpose is to persuade. No one is persuaded by a nervous, unsettled, or high strung petitioner. 

When performing an oral argument you’re open to criticism either way. You can choose to take it in stride or become upset and aggressive. Law isn’t about sticking it to anyone or attacking a specific side. More often than not your opponent today may also be your friend. Intimidation, pretentiousness, and combative encounters you may find along the way (of course not here at VLS!), but how you choose to handle it makes the difference. Professionalism then is not about resisting the fight but acting with poise, grace, honesty, and tactfully. You look them dead in the eye, pause, and with a genuine smile let your words and open body language win the war for you. At the end, you don’t want to become that awful lawyer your opponent complains about over dinner. We can change the world and the legal community by embracing these somewhat subtle notions of true professionalism. 

 

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