Mock Law School Class Teaches The Delicate Art of Talking Like a Lawyer

A mock UH Law School class on Zoom this past week offered 55 participants insights into the art of how to think and talk like a lawyer—and what it might be like to attend law school. The class, led by Professor John Barkai who is an expert at teaching conflict resolution and prosecution, drew a wide range of people, including a third of the participants who intend to apply to the William S. Richardson School of Law in the current application cycle. As well, practicing attorneys, alumni, leaders of local nonprofits, and even high school students pondering legal careers, joined the class.

Approximately 40 percent were attending from the Mainland, and 60 percent were women. The students participated in breakout rooms for trial role-playing of a case provided to them beforehand.“After ample time to practice in their small groups,” said Loreto Coloma Jr., Associate Director of Admissions, “the class culminated with three volunteers demonstrating their direct and cross-examination skills.

“Several students stayed afterward for additional discussion on how these skills would fit into an actual trial scenario, going beyond the scope of this introductory class,” said Coloma. Barkai explained many of the offerings of the UH Law School, including the array of clinical courses which provide law students with hands-on experience working with clients, simulation courses that provide in-depth skills in a variety of areas, and externships where students work in the community to experience how lawyers collaborate. Barkai also focused on the difference between how and when to ask leading questions—to elicit an affirmative answer from a witness during cross-examination—and when to ask open-ended questions. He even did a magic trick!

Dean Camille Nelson commented, “Thank you to Professor John Barkai for offering this empowering opportunity. What a terrific way to learn more about the way in which the law takes shape through testimony, and one’s potential role in that process, as well as furthering your advocacy skills in the process!”