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What kind of skills do I need in order to become a civil rights lawyer?

I want to improve my argument skills so I can have a part time job as a lawyer. #business-lawyer

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Kim’s Answer

Jose,

Thank you for your interest in Civil Rights Law! It's great that you want to improve your argument skills (hopefully both oral and written!) I don't know what grade you are in, but, having done some freelance work for a Civil Rights attorney, offer the following observations:

1. Writing skills. I cannot stress this enough! I've seen several cases where I got lost on discussions of modifiers, prepositions, and the like. Learn grammar! As far as actual legal writing goes, it's very different than what you learn in school. Overly simplified, it starts by stating the conclusion, and then goes on to justify it. Don't worry about that right now, you will pick it up later.

2. Oral debate. Take debate. Take speech. Maybe even take acting so you learn to speak using your whole body to express yourself. Maybe join the local Toastmasters organization to get more practice at making speeches.

3. In college, take a logic class. It will teach you to think in different ways. It's fun!

Written argumentation is the essence of many civil rights cases. One side makes a motion to dismiss, the court asks both sides to file "briefs" on their positions. Before the motion gets to oral arguments, the court has already read the briefs. When you try to present your oral argument, the court interrupts you almost right away, to start asking questions about what they have read. You do not get to present the argument you intended to present, because, they just keep asking questions that use up your time! When I first saw this, I was shocked! But, it makes sense. They read the brief. They know what it says. They don't need you to repeat it! They just need to clear up any uncertainties they may have.

To be good at argumentation, you have to know your stuff! Reading and comprehending law is essential. Laws are written in very complex ways. But it is the knowledge, and self-confidence, that allow you to be good at what you do. So, please try to pick up a class that makes you learn to read the law - any law - criminal law, business law, etc.

Hope this has been helpful!
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