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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Tips for Successful Court Advocacy: Effective Strategies for Building Credibility and Rapport

Posted By Phillip Stephan for Lawyers Club's Bench Bar Committee, Tuesday, January 7, 2020

At the Bench Bar Committee, San Diego Lawyers Club members are given the opportunity to attend events that provide an informal, relaxed atmosphere for members of the bench and members of Lawyers Club to meet, interact, and discuss the legal profession. The goal of this experience is to help us all understand that members of the bench are approachable people – they make mistakes, understand that you may be slightly anxious when you are arguing in front of them, and maybe even spill salad dressing on their clothes too.
Although an informal lunch may not provide the most applicable training for your career-defining oral argument, the San Diego Lawyers Club’s Bench Bar Committee has helped numerous people, including me, learn about how best to connect with the bench. Oral argument is an extension of your ability to hold a conversation – a conversation with more structure, specialized terminology, and often, the demand for persuasion. Social interaction with our esteemed judicial offers has provided me with a foundation to calmly handle oral argument, and I credit Lawyers Club, the San Diego County Bar Association, and other San Diego organizations for providing such great opportunities. Here are some guiding principles for oral argument that have come in handy:


1. Engage the judge. This is a conversation, rather than a debate. Your debate is with opposing counsel. Hopefully, you’ve persuasively presented the points in your moving papers. Speaking of your moving papers . . .

2. Do not read to the judge. To effectively engage your judge, it is ineffective to read the same statement you’ve made in your moving papers, unless the situation or the judge specifically calls for that – the judge has considered those arguments already. Try to condense your points into a one sheet outline or a series of brief sheets, depending on the complexity of your case. Brief sheets are a technique for splitting up a complex oral argument into easy references, with one brief sheet covering case law, one covering your arguments, and one covering any opposing arguments, etc.

3. Deliver your point concisely. Even when you cannot be brief in your brief, make sure that you do not include unnecessary detail that may cause the judicial officer to lose interest in your argument. Part of concisely addressing the points you want to make includes properly integrating any tentative rulings, as well as interactively listening to the questions and underlying concerns of the direction from the bench. Numerous talented practitioners stress that oral argument is dynamic.

4. Be respectful and reliable. Credibility is the essential attribute that anyone making an argument must exude to persuade others, or hold a conversation. Although your job is to advocate, you cannot afford to lose credibility.

As the new year arrives, I often find the time for reflection and come up with a resolution or two. This year, one resolution is to concentrate on staying mindful, including following my own advice and trusting the lessons I have learned through my experience. I provided the above tips because that advice reflects the ideal way of delivering an oral argument; real life may not always be so simple. If you (and I) take the time to prepare, and trust that preparation has been diligent and thorough, we will all be able to improve our conversation, both in and out of the courtroom.


Enjoy a prosperous 2020!

 

Phillip Stephan is an Associate Attorney at Neil, Dymott, Frank, McCabe & Hudson, APLC, and he wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club’s Bench Bar Committee.

 

 

 

Tags:  advocacy  bench bar  briefs  judge  judicial engagement  oral argument  reliability  respect 

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You Can’t Make People Be Nice – But You Can Ask Them to Be Accountable: The Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative

Posted By Guest blogger Jen Rubin, Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

We cannot make people be nice, but we can certainly ask people to be accountable for trying to do better. If we make that commitment, we will make our workplaces better. These are the principles underlying the San Diego Lawyers Club Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative (“WE & CI”).


It occurred to me, early on in the WE & CI’s development, that we were simply asking employees and employers to follow the law. But naturally, it is more than that. The WE & CI is
an important step in rejecting the alarming but growing trend of normalizing bad behavior. The WE & CI provides a path to state, in positive and affirmative terms, that we will try to do better and hold ourselves and all employers accountable for our collective efforts to make our workplaces better.


The WE & CI has two simple components: First, pledge to do one’s best as an employer (and as an employee) to commit to better behavior in the workplace by adopting and enforcing certain policies that will naturally result in a more equitable workplace. The adoption of the WE & CI Commitment is an easy first step in this process. Second, commit to having at least half of an employer’s workforce attend National Conflict Resolution Center-developed training that promotes learning about civility in the workplace.


As an employment lawyer, I am frequently asked to advise clients about the legal implications of bad behavior in the workplace. The concept of “bad behavior” in the bullying, boorish and ill-mannered sense generally carries no legal consequences because “actionable” bad behavior must be grounded in a legal violation. In other words, a nasty supervisor who equally bullies people without regard to gender, race, sexual orientation or any other protected category, does not necessarily create legal risk for the employer. (Though, frequently they do create risk because of the natural insensitivity that accompanies those behaviors.) Bad behavior clearly impacts morale and productivity, but being a jerk does not always carry legal implications.


With that said, state and federal law unambiguously prohibit workplace discrimination (of which sexual harassment is only a subset). Here in California, beginning in 2020, employers of at least five or more employees must provide training – including anti-bullying training –to supervisors and non-supervisory employees. This robust training mandate does not create additional legal liability for engaging in offensive behavior nor does it insulate an employer from liability for such behavior.


We hope that accountability, together with formal group introspection and education, will lead to changes that elude legislation. Peer pressure motivates people to change their behavior. If business leaders set an example and make it clear that they will hold themselves and their employees accountable, then real change will transpire. It is our aim to promote full participation in the WE & CI from our regional employers with the  natural outcome of a civil, productive workplace. That workplace will lead to natural equity without legislation. Or, as we might say, a nicer workplace.

 


Jen Rubin is an employment partner with Mintz, and co-Chairs the San Diego Lawyers Club Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative with immediate past president of Lawyers Club Danna Cotman.

 

 

 

Tags:  bullying  civility  discrimination  employment law  equity  harassment  National Conflict Resolution Center  NCRC  respect  risk  training  Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative 

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