Rhetoric & Advocacy

The primary goal of the 2-credit seminar in "Rhetoric and Advocacy" is that students leave the class as more insightful, effective, and reflective advocates. Because modern lawyer-advocates must persuade both inside and outside the courtroom, rhetoric—the art of persuasion or, more boldly, "wisdom united with eloquence"—should guide almost all aspects of legal discourse. Students will enhance their ability to scrutinize a range of discourse using the tools of classical and modern rhetoric. Though focus will be on legal texts, sources ranging from U.S. Supreme Court opinions to literature and commercial media, from the Federalist Papers to interviews on YouTube will be used to help students develop a heightened concern for language and its delivery.

Ideally, the wisdom gained from the close scrutiny of persuasive language can be applied in the formation of persuasive arguments. Rhetoric and Advocacy, then, will ask students to apply their knowledge of rhetoric to their own advocacy projects. In this application, emphasis will be on oral delivery of persuasive speech. When the preeminent Greek orator Demosthenes was asked what he considered the most important aspect of rhetoric, he is fabled to have replied, "delivery, delivery, delivery!" Arguably, effective delivery is even more important for the modern lawyer-advocate. Delivery of oral arguments will be a focus of this course, and Rhetoric and Advocacy will aim to equip students with an arsenal of persuasive tools.

In the tradition of the artes liberales, the materials of Rhetoric and Advocacy will range from the philosophical to the practical, with the philosophical meant to guide a thoughtful reflection on the law, its meaning, and the role of the lawyer-advocate within it. Throughout the semester the course will encourage student evaluation of the relationship among law, rhetoric, and socio-political discourse. Rhetoric and Advocacy should be especially appealing to students who have had a liberal arts background and especially useful to those who have not.

Students will be evaluated on their participation informal in-class workshops, debates, presentations, etc. Two formal assignments will also count toward student evaluations. First, as a class we will select several current issues around which assigned student groups will develop "Team Advocacy Campaign Projects" that require traditional and non-traditional legal advocacy. Second, each individual student will be responsible for completing an "Oral Advocacy Self-Assessment Project connected with his or her issue. There will be no final exam.

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