Don't know if you caught The Tennessean article that was picked up by USA Today this weekend concerning the dying art of trial advocacy, but I naturally had some thoughts as they relate to law school competitions. Those thoughts aren't nearly cohesive enough to be spun into some artful essay, so I'll just give 'em to you as they came to me.
1. The premise of the article--that lawsuits don't get tried anymore--is hardly news.
2. Even so, what will this "news" foretell for law school advocacy programs? On one hand, you could make the case that advocacy skills training is more important than ever, given that lawyers most certainly won't get on-the-job training in how to try cases. And while there's no question that trials don't happen very often, they nevertheless do happen occasionally, and I think everyone would agree that trying a case is something that every lawyer ought to be able to do (because you never know when you just might have to do it some day). If lawyers won't get the chance improve their skills in practice, then when else--other than law school--will they learn such skills?
3. On the other hand, will detractors of advocacy competitions (there are even a handful of them on the faculty at my school) use this as fodder for their arguments that these competitions add little to the educational process? If trying lawsuits is no longer a significant job duty of even those attorneys that call themselves "trial lawyers," then why do we need to emphasize it during law school?
4. Maybe there's a middle position somewhere between point 2 and point 3? Should we ask why moot court (appellate advocacy) and mock trial (trial advocacy) are the two most popular activities? Should the advocacy world instead shift its focus to other competitions, such as negotiation, arbitration, and client counseling, when it's obvious that those are the skills that lawyers will use far more often than courtroom advocacy?
Anyway, just some random thoughts. Comments?