ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND — Make no mistake, the Trial of the Advocate is the rock star of the Baylor and Campbell law schools study abroad programs here. With the dramatic demonstrations by seasoned trial advocates, the rigorous pace, and the focus on practical concepts for future trial attorneys, the Trial of the Advocate is the reason most of the students enroll in the program. Not me.
Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is great! But I learned a long time ago that sometimes you have to widen your base, before you can build any higher. (Thanks Legos). That’s precisely what the Trial of the Advocate did for me. I walked away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for some of the fundamental aspects of persuasive writing and oral argument. And I learned some new tricks, too.
On the first day we heard a lecture (don’t be afraid). Dean Tobin, from Baylor Law, gave us the ins and outs of the history of St. Andrews and explained the reason why we were there — the historical connection between Scottish legal theory and contemporary American legal theory. I won’t spoil it but rest assured that a later lecture by Professor Serr, also from Baylor Law, really made it crystal clear that concepts like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not unique to American history. Bottom line, we owe a great debt to the revolutionaries in Scotland, their wisdom and spirit planted the seeds for American legal tradition. If you are a history buff, you will find that St. Andrews (and the surrounding area) are a treasure trove.
Every class meeting consisted of a brief lecture/focus meeting followed by group work and presentations. We were paired up with students from different schools. The presentations forced everyone to consume the material, internalize it, and add something to it. Sound familiar? It should. Every day was a chance to practice persuasive speech with a panel of experts (and I do mean experts) there to provide ideas and critiques to make each of us better advocates. Students also constructively critiqued each other, all working together to make each person stronger.
It’s no exaggeration to say that it was a lot of work! We read lots of persuasive writing, not just those pertaining to law but poetry, articles, letters, and more. We listened to lots of persuasive speaking— war speeches, political speeches, songs, oral arguments, etc. Dean Tobin and Professor Serr performed a demonstration of oral arguments. (Not gonna call a winner but Serr was on his game that day, just sayin’). I feel like I definitely earned the credits, even though the program was only about two weeks.
I still had time to do lots of fun things. In the evenings and over the long weekend I went sightseeing. The castles are amazing. The people are nicer than in the States. All the colors are brighter in St. Andrews. I also spent some time with my wife (she flew out for the long weekend) and friends. I made lots of connections that I would never have made otherwise (sorry Texans, Texas is not on my list of places to visit). I also met people from Campbell Law that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m not the sentimental type, but I made some great friends.
Wanna know the best part? Surrounded by talented students from at least four law schools, I won best advocate for the Trial of the Appeal! And, my friend and fellow Campbell Law student, Savannah Singletary, won best advocate for the Trial of the Advocate. (She worked really hard y’all, give her high five when you see her, she definitely earned it). Truly, everyone left St. Andrews a better advocate. Our success is mostly attributable to the time, hard work, and service of the professors, judges, and practicing attorneys that pour themselves into the students. I won’t take the time to name them all, they’re a small army, but they know who they are. They deserve praise for what they do and have done. I’m grateful for the experience because I got to be part of making others better and, in doing so, I think I gained some invaluable insight into what makes a great advocate. And it doesn’t hurt that I won.