Better Late Than Never

–From Rob Spring, Southern Illinois University School of Law, Date of event: Spring 2003

Spring semester of my first year: We had just finished writing an appellate brief and the first-year class was partnered up to compete in oral arguments. The week before we had a practice round before local lawyers and judges. I didn’t do too badly, my brief was pretty good and my partner was better than me.

My real argument was scheduled for the next week. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I was sure my argument was set for a week from Thursday. It wasn’t. On Wednesday the week before, as I was walking out to my car ready to drive home, I happened to see one of the guys I was arguing against running towards the law building in a suit and holding a brief in his hand. A sudden flash of panic came over me.

Nah, it couldn’t be today. But I needed to make sure and went back to check the posted schedule on the professor’s door. Much to my horror, not only was I up on Wednesday, but I only had 5 minutes to prepare, and I didn’t even have a copy of my brief! I hadn’t prepared at all. All I could think of was that I was going to repeat Lawyering Skills again. I thought of just ditching and running to my car and heading home.

But I decided to bite the bullet and go down to the courtroom, where I was greeted by our opponents and my partner, who had a look of total disbelief on her face. All three of them in suits and dressed for success. I hadn’t shaved, and needed a haircut, and was wearing a faded blue teeshirt, a pair of Quicksilver shorts, and sandals.

Luckily my partner didn’t kill me and had a copy of my brief. After explaining myself to the court for my unprofessional attire, we were allowed to proceed. I was supposed to go first, but had to force my partner to go first while I tried to figure out what I was going to say to fill up 15 minutes. Luck was on my side. My brief had been pretty good to begin with, so improvising with it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. When my partner finished, I gulped and jumped right in. I greeted the court and surprisingly enough did well. Afterwards, we all had a really big laugh.

I was really lucky and I know it. I was lucky I had a good partner, that she had a copy of my brief with her, that I saw Robbie (my opponent) in a suit, and finally that my professor didn’t kick my ass right out of the court room when I showed up in shorts and a teeshirt.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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