Appellate Advocacy Blog

Editor: Tessa L. Dysart
The University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law

Monday, October 25, 2021

There is a meme for that....

For years, I have required my students in Advanced Legal Writing (Appellate Brief Writing) to watch a real oral argument. Typically, they watch one on campus when either the Arizona Supreme Court or the Arizona Court of Appeals visits.

For some time, I struggled with an appropriate assessment of this activity. I didn't want to require a memo, since that is what they did as 1Ls.  Then, I read a book chapter by Jane Bloom Grisé entitled "Improved Comprehension with Visual Images."  The chapter appears in Lawyering Skills in the Doctrinal Classroom, which is edited by Tammy Pettinato Oltz. Professor Grisé writes about how student learning improves when they read something complex and then find an image that explains the text. In the chapter she describes some of the assessments that she has done and student reactions to those assessments.

Inspired by the chapter, I decided to incorporate a visual image assignment into my brief writing class. After my students watched the oral argument, they needed to find or create a meme or image that reflected the argument. After doing this assignment a few times, it has become one of my favorites of the semester. I am astounded by the creativity of the students.  Sometimes the memes touch on the subject matter of the argument. Other times, however, students reflect on the advocacy--such as one advocate's inability to answer a question or that advocate's surprise as a line of questioning. Inevitably the memes serve as a starting place for us to discuss strong advocacy.  And, we usually get in a few laughs as well.

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