On May 23rd, 2023, I landed in Reykjavík, Iceland to participate in a two week advocacy program. I stepped off of the plane into a country of blustering winds and freezing temperatures. Little did I know how much this country and the people I met there, would change my life.
The month of May in Iceland has seventeen (17) hours of daylight. After twenty-four (24) hours of getting settled into a normal sleeping cycle, classes commenced. Professor Charles H. Rose III gave an intense lecture about the value of storytelling in a trial. I knew the minute Professor Charlie Rose began to speak, that I had to listen. His vast knowledge of trial advocacy, captivating tone and presence were riveting.
After the initial lecture, I scanned the room. 21 law students sat in the classroom. Four (4) students from Pace Law School, Seven (7) students from Ohio Northern School of Law, five (5) students from University of Iceland School of Law and five (5) students from Interamerican School of Law in Puerto Rico.
Naturally, students migrated to those who they already knew. I sat next to all of the students I came with – Chloe, Charlie and Joe. Everyone else was seated with their own friends from their school. This would not last very long. Students were split into small breakout rooms – One (1) student from Pace, one (1) student from Interamerican, one (1) student from University of Iceland and one (1) student from Ohio Northern. Breakout rooms was where the magic happened.
The skills for storytelling that were absorbed during the initial lecture were then executed in breakout rooms.
We became close to everyone in the breakout rooms and I noticed everyone’s guard slowly coming down. In order to excel in trial work, we learned to have a layer of vulnerability. When we are vulnerable with those we’re speaking to, such as a jury, they enter in to our story. This makes us more persuasive and better advocates.
The next two weeks consisted of a morning lecture about direct examination skills, cross-examination skills, opening statement skills and closing argument skills. Students were able to enjoy being taught by Professors from all over the world – Ohio, Scotland, Puerto Rico, Iceland and New York.
The lectures were followed by in-class participation, essentially forcing students to get comfortable with speaking in front of the class to practice a new trial skill. Those skills were later executed in small group breakout rooms.
The first full week of classes did not disappoint. A fair amount of sightseeing, riding electric scooters and exploring the beautiful country of Iceland was also incorporated into the trip.
By the end of the first week, the student hostel consisted of twenty-one (21) law students who helped each other with their direct and cross exams, cooked dinners together and shared memories of their sightseeing.
One of the most amazing nights in Iceland was when we cooked a large dinner and sat around the table with our Professors. We picked their brains about their own strengths and weaknesses in being trial attorneys, their unique experiences from all over the world and picked up invaluable advice from them. I realized in this moment – This trip was not the journey and it was not the destination. It was the company.
During the second week of classes, students had the opportunity to go into chambers and meet the Icelandic Supreme Court judges. We learned about the Icelandic legal system in a lecture from President Benedikt Bogason and gained insight into recent cases the Supreme Court has taken on.
The second week came and went. Before I knew it, it was time for final assessments.
The night before final assessments, the student hostel was buzzing with anxious future trial attorneys. I walked into the kitchen and saw Interamerican students practicing their cross-exams on Ohio Northern students. School affiliation did not matter anymore, camaraderie was at every corner.
Final Assessment day commenced. Each professor judged from a separate room. One (1) room for opening statements, one (1) room for directs, one (1) room for cross-exams and one (1) room for closing arguments.
The University of Iceland hallways bustled with students ready to give it their all for the end of the trial advocacy program.
The best part for me, was being able to celebrate our achievements together afterwards. We cooked dinner together for our last night in Iceland and went around the table, each person detailing their most memorable moment from the trip.
Had it not been for the Pace Law Advocacy Program, I would never have had the opportunity to experience Iceland, enhance my advocacy skills and network with students all over the world who share the same love of trial advocacy. The Pace Law Advocacy Program made this opportunity possible by giving us Pace students a scholarship to help with the trip.
We all boarded different planes the next morning. Going back home in different directions. To different countries. Each student left Iceland bringing a unique trial advocacy skill home.