Working at the Malden District Court has been a truly immersive experience. I’ve made it my personal goal to attend as many jury and bench trials as possible, and at each one, I’ve made detailed notes of the prosecution and defense attorneys techniques in opening, closing, and cross examination. Through these notes, I’ve been able to witness a plethora of styles of oral advocacy. Surprisingly, it helped me better understand how attorneys face audiences, whether juries or judges, when presented with trials.
Outside of the workplace, I’ve gotten to know the attorneys and court personnel of our office and court and talked about their experiences in law, law school, court, and lives as legal professionals. It’s been a great way to get an insight into what it’s actually like to work in the public sector as a criminal prosecutor, and I’ve felt more than welcomed by all of my peers to ask and inquire as much as I’d like.
The staff at my office are phenomenal at teaching me anything I’d like to know. So within the past two weeks, I have learned how to create redacted copies of case files, file discovery notices, and create CTU folders (I’ve included a blank picture of one here). This takes hours of time off the attorneys hands, and in the process, I get to learn about what the different components of a case file (like the elements of discovery) consist of and how they are relevant to investigation.
While I was watching a jury trial, I asked an attorney about the significance of side-bar conversations with the judge during trial. After she explained it to me, she noted, “This is the stuff they don’t teach you in law school!” At first, that statement was shocking to me, because it seemed as though court proceedings and techniques would be necessary to teach in law school, but the more trials I attended, the more I saw her point. Academic life is a wonderful way to learn about the law, master it, study case law, and become an expert in the components and contents of the law and case matters. The most representative of the difference between on-site and off-site learning can be exhibited here with this Annual Report. It contains a wealth of information, and it all becomes much clearer once you are actually in the court watching it happen. Practice and observation is where I have learned the intricate details in oral advocacy and court etiquette that make all the difference when bringing a case to trial. These hands-on experiences are what show me what makes a successful defense attorney or ADA, because the requirements extend beyond what case law can teach you. (For instance, here’s some information regarding the types of jurors that exist in the MA court system: http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury-info/trial-and-grand-jurors/ http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury-info/mass-jury-system/ )
Not only has this experience taught me to properly analyze, observe, and interpret case files and trial proceedings, but it has also taught me to become a better oral advocator myself in enhancing my organizational and communication skills. I know how to present myself in court and to the public, and I’m learning how to closely read cases and spot relevant information that might be important or worth noting for future arguments. These are vital skills that will carry with me through my academic career at Brandeis and law school, but they will also assist me in all other areas of my life in my professional career as a lawyer, my personal interests in reading and writing, and my on campus involvement with student groups that aim to reach and affect wide audiences. It’s been a wonderful first four weeks, and I’m more than excited.