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Supreme Court’s Antonin Scalia Offers Tips to Law Students

02-20-2014
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the School of Law Jan. 31.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and award-winning legal author Bryan A. Garner told USF law students exactly what to do if they want to persuade a judge: avoid jargon, understand the weaknesses of their case, and use only their strongest arguments.

Tips for winning

The two men delivered the keynote address at the USF Law Review Symposium the afternoon of Jan. 31, and for more than an hour peppered an eager audience of law students and San Francisco lawyers with tips on how to win their case, telling them to leave their Hollywood court act at home, treasure simplicity, and avoid big words.

“Your job is to make a complicated case look simple, not to make a simple case look complicated,” Scalia said.

Book signing

USF students who made up the majority of the symposium audience found discussion engrossing because of its pragmatic advice on how to be an effective legal communicator, said Elif Sonmez, symposium editor for the USF Law Review journal, which sponsored the event.

Scalia and Garner returned to campus that evening to discuss and sign copies of their book “Reading the Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts” at an event with the same name. Attendees, mostly San Francisco lawyers who paid as much as $250 for a ticket, were kept smiling by the duo who took friendly jabs at the other’s political leanings (Scalia is conservative, Garner is liberal) and made light of Garner’s admitted chagrin when pronouncing Latin legal terms. The discussion was sponsored by USF’s Center for Law and Ethics and the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Capacity crowd

About 400 students and San Francisco legal professionals attended each event, filling the McLaren Conference Center to capacity. 

“Justice Scalia and Garner's presentation to the Law Review Symposium and book talk to the general community on legal writing and interpretation were memorable, insightful, and educational," said Law school Dean John Trasviña, who was thrilled with the popularity of both events.

by Ed Carpenter | Office of Communications and Marketing »email usfnews@usfca.edu | Twitter @usfcanews