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Law students to build skills through new Advocacy Institute

Courtroom scene

The Advocacy Institute will build on UB Law’s recent success in the moot court and trial advocacy programs that give students real-world experience in trial and appellate advocacy.

By ILENE FLEISCHMANN

Published March 20, 2014

Charles Ewing
“The skills that we teach in our advocacy courses are skills that benefit all lawyers, whether they intend to do trial or appellate practice or not.”
Charles P. Ewing, vice dean for academic affairs
UB Law School

An ambitious initiative of the UB Law School will help students and legal practitioners develop their skills in the critical task of advocating for their clients.

The Advocacy Institute, to be funded by the Law School, the university and private donors, will build on UB Law’s recent success in the moot court and trial advocacy programs that give students real-world experience in trial and appellate advocacy. Plans for the institute envision an expansion and further strengthening of those programs; new courses on advocacy topics; training for faculty in the best ways to teach these skills; and continuing education opportunities for members of the local bar.

“Among our alumni are some of the best trial lawyers in the country,” says Dean Makau Mutua. “They are committed to the idea and are giving generously of their time and treasure to help us launch this institute, which is a major step forward for the Law School.”

One goal, says Charles P. Ewing, vice dean for academic affairs, is to raise UB Law’s profile as one of the nation’s top law schools for advocacy training.

“In our national reputation for advocacy training, we have come so far in such a short time that it’s not too ambitious to think we can be one of the top schools in the country,” Ewing says. “The skills that we teach in our advocacy courses are skills that benefit all lawyers, whether they intend to do trial or appellate practice or not. Our students learn to think and speak on their feet; they learn to be in an adversarial situation and how to handle it with grace. It’s a great experience.”

UB Law currently runs three national moot court competitions — the Buffalo Niagara Mock Trial Competition, one of the largest in the nation; the Herbert J. Wechsler National Criminal Moot Court Competition; and the Albert R. Mugel National Moot Court Tax Competition — as well as the intramural Charles S. Desmond Moot Court Competition. Teams of UB law students also travel nationally to other trial technique competitions.

Another major aim of the institute, Ewing says, is to train faculty members — both full-time professors and the practitioners who serve as adjunct professors — to be more effective teachers of advocacy skills. “Our hope,” he says, “is to bring in nationally known trial and appellate advocacy attorneys and instructors to teach our faculty to be better instructors. Another goal is to send members of our faculty to programs around the country to improve their advocacy and teaching skills.”

The first instance of such faculty training will come April 5, when two of the best-known advocacy professors in the nation — Charles Rose of Stetson University Law School and Zelda Harris of Loyola Law School — will work with students, faculty and moot court coaches, offering critiques and teaching tools.

Under the auspices of the Advocacy Institute, the Law School also expects to upgrade its technological capabilities, upgrading its Francis J. Letro Courtroom with state-of-the-art technology and equipping selected classrooms for easy conversion to mock courtrooms.

An advisory board of prominent attorneys, judges and legal scholars will help guide the mission of the institute.

READER COMMENTS

How about teaching other faculty/students to be more effective advocates for "positions" taken with regard to societal investments, as in research budgeting for "translational" science? I find that I am being singularly ineffective in getting — even professional society — traction for arguments in "Advancing Translational Research Requires Return to Contract Program at NIH" at http://www.bestthinking.com/article/display/1891.

 

Robert E. Baier

I think this is an awesome idea. Personally as a student I would like this. Everyone has a different learning style and I think this will help a lot of people.

 

Stacy Beck