Faculty Author Advanced Appellate Advocacy Textbook

September 08, 2016

Advanced Appellate Advocacy Book Authors
(From left) Professors Susan Provenzano, Sarah O’Rourke Schrup, Jeffrey Green, and Carter Phillips (JD '77)

Earlier this year, four Northwestern Law faculty in the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Appellate Advocacy Center released a first-of-its-kind mastery textbook, Advanced Appellate Advocacy (Aspen Publishers, 2016). We spoke to Susan E. Provenzano, professor of practice, and Sarah O’Rourke Schrup, Harry B. Reese Teaching Professor of Law—who coauthored the book with adjunct professors Jeffrey T. Green and Carter Phillips (JD ’77)—about their decision to write the book and what makes it distinct.

Why did the four of you decide to write this book together?

We decided to write this book because in teaching our advanced appellate simulation and clinical courses, we found that we could never find one book that met our needs—namely, a book tailored to pushing our second and third-year students towards mastery. We had been cobbling together coursepacks over the years, but wanted to be able to provide our students a one-stop tome that would serve as a resource to them not only during the time they spent in our courses, but also for years afterwards as they honed their writing and analytical skills in practice. Once we decided that this type of book needed to be written, it was easy to decide to write it together. We had been teaching appellate classes at Northwestern Law together for nearly ten years.

How is it different from previous textbooks on appellate advocacy?

The number one difference is sophistication. This book aims to put students in the shoes of appellate lawyers, facing the same challenges and making the same strategic decisions at every step of an appeal. Before upper-level appellate courses began to populate law school curricula, appellate advocacy textbooks were written for first-year students and needed a more simplified approach. As appellate clinics and simulations grew, the market for an advanced appellate advocacy book did too. Our book has three distinctive features that meet advanced course needs. First, the research, writing, and oral argument instruction moves students beyond elementary approaches and teaches more flexible and sophisticated techniques used by expert practitioners. Second, the book’s argumentation instruction is multi-disciplinary, drawing on the latest research in rhetoric and cognitive psychology. Third, the book covers appellate doctrine that every lawyer needs to know, not just the skills they must have to win appeals.

The online companion features some bonus content, including video interviews. Can you share some of the highlights?

One differentiating feature of this book was our deliberate decision to streamline the text of the book so that it could deliver the essential information to students in an efficient and direct way. We wanted students and young practitioners to be able to turn to the book for guidance without having to wade through pages of exercises and examples. For that reason, we placed nearly all of the samples and exercises in a separate online companion. We also felt strongly about including samples and interviews from accomplished appellate practitioners. In preparing to write the book, we spent quite a bit of time researching adult learning and how they obtain mastery, and we found that a necessary step in this progression was observing and modeling experts, as well as analyzing great appellate writing. The materials in the online companion are designed with those goals in mind.  

Have you had an opportunity to use the book in class yet? If so, what was the experience like?

Yes, we used the book this past spring in the Appellate Advocacy simulation course. It was an exhilarating and satisfying experience, although not without trepidation, especially at the beginning. Anytime you teach using your own material, you hope that you’ve understood your audience, that you’ve anticipated their needs, and that the messages you’ve sent are the messages they are receiving. The feedback during and after the semester gave us confidence that we hit those marks. But the proof was really in the day-to-day classroom engagement and students’ own confidence. We saw students experimenting with high-level techniques and turning in work product that exceeded our—and maybe even their—expectations. But most rewarding of all, we observed students taking ownership of their writing process and feeling deeply connected to their work product.