As the new director of appellate advocacy for UB School of Law’s Advocacy Institute, Professor Lucinda Finley knows how challenging the art of appellate work can be. She’s done a lot of it herself, including handling appeals in several federal circuit courts and before the U.S. Supreme Court.
She also knows that for students, it’s an excellent avenue to developing creative lawyering skills.
“Nothing is better for honing your legal reasoning, analytic and writing skills,” says Finley, who is the law school’s Frank Raichle Professor of Trial and Appellate Advocacy. “The way appellate advocacy competitions are structured, you have to argue both sides of the case. That really sharpens your analytical abilities. It helps you understand the strengths and weaknesses of various positions and helps you better anticipate weaknesses in your position and how to address them as they come up.”
She says students sometimes come to her eager to argue one side of a case because they are passionate about a particular issue. They reach a whole new level of legal sophistication when they find themselves having to argue against their own convictions.
Finley comes to the director’s role having previously selected and coached UB law students for national appellate advocacy competitions, including high-profile competitions sponsored by the American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association.
The portfolio she’ll oversee includes two competitions run by the School of Law: the intramural Charles S. Desmond Moot Court Competition and the annual Herbert Wechsler National Criminal Moot Court Competition, the only national moot court competition in the United States to focus on topics in substantive criminal law. She will work with the student Moot Court Board, with guidance including selecting the problem at issue, helping to craft the bench brief, evaluating students’ written briefs, and recruiting judges for the competitions, often local attorneys and UB School of Law alumni.
In addition, she says, Finley will seek to ensure that the law school fields teams of the highest caliber in national competitions, both for the sheer educational experience and to continue to raise the school’s profile as a leader in advocacy training.
That may include helping to choose the students who will serve on competition teams and either providing direct coaching or identifying other faculty or experienced attorneys to fill that role. “We’re hoping to develop a pool of people who are willing and available to coach,” she says. “As that group grows, more students can have this experience.”