When we were third-year students at the Acme School of Law and Refrigerator Repair, our professor of Trial Advocacy was the District Attorney of one of New York’s leading crime-prone counties. On the first day, he told the class that if we did well, he’d get us a job in the Trial Division. And if we didn’t do so well, he could probably find us a job in Appeals.
We’re reminded of this every time we see a People’s brief. Here’s the rigorous training they undergo:
Trainer: I’d like to welcome all of you new hires to the Appeals Division of Crime-Prone County District Attorney’s Office. All of you come highly recommended by District Attorney Thornwell for flunking out of his Trial Ad class.
Let’s get started. First subject is legal reasoning. Everybody repeat after me: “I am a great legal mind.”
Class: I am a great legal mind.
Trainer: Louder! I can’t hear you!
Class: I AM A GREAT LEGAL MIND.
Trainer: Now, turn to the person next to you and say it.
Class: (to each other) I am a great legal mind, I am a great legal mind, I am a great legal mind.
Trainer: Excellent. You’ve now mastered legal reasoning. Next subject is writing skills. I’m passing out a list of 25 words and phrases for you to memorize.
Trainer: Don’t worry, these are all you’ll ever need to write a brief. Any questions?
New hire #1: What does “unpreserved” mean?
Trainer: It means really stupid. Like, the appeal should be denied. Okay? All right, last subject is oral argument.
New hire #2: I can’t think on my feet. That’s why I can’t do trials.
Trainer: Not to worry. All you have to do is write out your arguments – using some combination of the 25 words, of course – on the inside of a manilla folder. No matter what your unpreserved opponent says, no matter what the judges ask, just read something out of it.
New hire #3: That’s all there is to it?
Trainer: Absolutely! We have a 99% success rate.