Transcripts and Coffee

May 25, 2010

Trial work is something many, although certainly not all, young attorneys are interested in.  Unfortunately, the transition from trial advocacy courses into actual courtroom practice can be difficult.  As a new attorney, I personally found that reading practice guides regarding the theory behind such things as effective motion practice, voir dire and evidence useful.  However, I sometimes struggled with the implementation of those theories, and discovered the most effective way of developing litigation skills was observing the work of other, more experienced attorneys.  In an ideal world, summer associates interested in litigation would accompany seasoned lawyers to court on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, in the real world, young associates initially have few opportunities to view seasoned litigators at work.  

Westlaw resources have long included written transcripts of hearings or trials. Transcripts, in addition to being valuable tools regarding a witness’s (especially an expert witness’s) prior testimony, are also useful in terms of analyzing question format, appropriateness of objections and so forth.  However, I personally do not believe that written language totally conveys the effect of actually hearing and seeing the components of voice intonation, word emphasis and even body language which are such integral part of trial advocacy.  Fortunately, Westlaw now has added live transcripts, both audio and video, to its collection of transcripts. 

The data base Transcripts-All includes written, video and audio transcripts from various state and federal court proceedings.  You have the option of selecting all transcripts, or limiting your search to audio and/or video.  Additionally, you can further limit your selections by such categories as voir dire, closing argument, witness testimony, or appellate oral argument.  These transcripts allow you to actually see and hear attorneys questioning witness, making closing arguments, or arguing in the federal appellate courts.  While it may not be quite the same as actual courtroom observation Transcripts-All provides an excellent alternative, if not a fantastic complement to coffee and a bagel in the morning.