Explore Toastmasters -- Good Advice For All Law Students
By: Antonia B. Harbin
In my first term of law school, while attending a Cooley Networking event, a practicing attorney recommended that I get involved with Toastmasters International (Toastmasters), because it would really help me as an attorney. At that time, I knew very little about Toastmasters but my curiosity was peaked, and fortunately, I followed that advice. I have been a member of a Toastmasters club for over a year now and I am so glad that I joined because it really helped me in pretrial when I had to give my oral argument and now that I am in trial skills I discovered that I have the foundation for good public speaking skills .
Toastmasters International is a public speaking and personal development club for people of all ages and backgrounds. Toastmasters can offer a law student or lawyer many benefits. With a one hour meeting, Toastmasters is conducive to those who have busy schedules. There are two separate tracks - the communication track and the leadership track. Under the communication track, you are required to complete several timed speeches. As lawyers, we have to be competent communicators and this track is very beneficial since we must advocate on behalf of our clients.
It is also a good idea to look for opportunities to improve our leadership skills, outside of law school organizations. Under the leadership track, you can be a general board member, participate in mentoring, play a role in the weekly meeting, plan events and even participate in speech contests.
Most people in a toastmasters club are there for various reasons. However, a common goal we all have is to improve our public speaking skills and help others do the same by providing thoughtful feedback. Toastmasters provides a supportive environment. For example, during each meeting there is a grammarian who introduces a new vocabulary word and gives a report that points out word enunciation and incorrect grammar. There is also an Ah counter who counts how many times you use filler and crutch words to makes sure your dialogue is not stifled by ums and ahs, and make you more aware of the annoying words that we have a tendency to use.
Finally, one of the best benefits that Toastmasters has to offer to law students is the part of the meeting known as “table topics.” Participating in “table topics” allows you to create impromptu speeches on various topics and deliver them within a two- minute time frame. Developing this skill is essential for lawyers because we need to be able to think and speak on our feet- especially as litigators.
Toastmasters is a great compliment to excelling in Mock trial, Moot Court, and trial skills. For attorneys it is also a good group to network in – considering that the people in the club come from varying backgrounds.
If you are ever interested you can find a toastmasters group near you at www. Toastmasters.org.