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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Connecting Case Analysis and Argument: A Belated Coda

From Bob McGahey:

A Belated Coda to Connecting Case Analysis and Argument

Sometime back, my colleague Tina Habas wrote (available here) on how to integrate case analysis with argument. Her idea of having students immediately use something from the examination they just did as a part of closing argument was inspired, and I’m going to have my Advance Trial Practice students do that this semester. I also realized that it was a logical extension of something I was already doing when teaching case analysis and storytelling to my Basic Trial Practice classes.

We work on case analysis and storytelling before we do anything else. The students in my Basic Trial Practice class learn case analysis by looking at a simple case (In re: Robert Reed works quite well), using the “Good Facts,” “Bad Facts,” “Neutral Facts” format. We discuss the case in a free- wheeling format, with students calling out individual facts. After we’ve put a lot of seemingly unconnected facts into each column, I first have them think about which 5 facts they like the most or the least, depending on which party they represent. I then make each student pick one uncontested fact from the “Neutral Facts” column and any two other contested facts (good or bad or one of each – and not necessarily any of their 5 best or worst facts) and then give me a minute or two of closing argument that links those three facts together in a persuasive way to support a position on their side of the case. This helps them start to see how facts must be linked together to convince a fact-finder, folds storytelling into the process, and also makes them have to think on their feet. If the class is willing, I’ll pick the facts for them. The students generally find this to be fun; you can see the wheels turning as they try to quickly come up with their arguments.

Bob McGahey

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