I was eliminated from the first year appellate competition at the quarterfinals. That isn’t saying too much because roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of each legal writing class makes it to the quarterfinals. During that round I was arguing “off-brief,” which means I was arguing for the case I had prepared to argue against. Luckily my partner was a pretty smart guy who was arguing “on-brief”, but, unfortunately, I think in the end he was probably too smart for his own good when it came to oral arguments. I could have butchered the other team on rebuttal. They gave me so much ammo to use against them I was practically jumping out of my seat in excitement. But. . .I didn’t do rebuttal. Not to sound cocky or anything, but I think I jipped when I was eliminated. I think I performed better than some of the people who advanced. On the plus side, I think I’ve overcome my two most persistent public speaking issues: going too fast and bungling words.
The stress and nervousness building up to each round was not that enjoyable. I always worried that I’d get nailed with a question for which I didn’t have a good answer. However, as soon as the round started, all the nervousness would go away, except for those few brief moments when I was about to begin my arguments. I genuinely enjoyed doing the oral arguments. It’s quite fun to stand in front of judges (usually lawyers), argue a case, and answer questions. I heard some horror stories about judges asking brutal questions and getting fiesty, but I didn’t have to deal with any of that. I think I will always be amazed by the human brain’s ability to creatively answer complex questions not only with coherence but with remarkable speed. Most of the time it seemed my answers were instantly springing fully-formed out of my mind. And that blows my mind.
Overall, it was an excellent experience. Not only was it good to be doing some public speaking again but also to be cross-examined on complex issues. I’d like to think that the practice will help me think more clearly and quickly on my feet.