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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - International Dispute Resolution

Workshops on oral advocacy with Prof Dr Jörg Risse


Two intensive workshop-style classes are offered as electives in the summer semester of the IDR LLM: Written Advocacy and Oral Advocacy. The ability to speak and present clearly is an invaluable skill for any legal professional to master, and the class, taking place over six intensive three-hour sessions, endeavours to help students to improve that skill. However, the Oral Advocacy class is designed to teach students not simply how to stand up in front of an arbitrator and make a pleading, or to give a presentation or speech before a crowd, but how to persuade, and engage, and how to capture the attention of the audience and hold them in the palm of your hand.

This approach is captured beautifully in the topic of the first lecture: “Do you have Powerpoint, or something to say?” where Prof Dr Risse conducted a thorough breakdown of the components of a good presentation, covering everything from what to wear and how to present yourself, to the things to do to keep an audience interested in what you have to say, to the best way to present the content of your talk. Refreshingly different and honest, Prof. Risse embodied and incorporated every one of his 12 Golden Rules of Rhetoric in his lecture, making for a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable afternoon.

The class is far more than simply a public speaking workshop, which tells students to enunciate properly. Given with the assumption that most students have throughout their careers or working lives already developed some kind of speaking experience, it aims to refine that and teaches students how to hone those basic skills. Thus, classes follow which focus on key communication theories and techniques and highlight how easily information can be lost in translation, and therefore what should be done to present information so that it can be readily understood. Communication exercises are used to demonstrate each point, making for an interactive and thought-provoking learning experience. Furthermore, techniques like active listening are explored and practiced, giving students an introduction to skills they can use in many facets of their future careers.

While teaching skills, the class also focuses on heuristics and how to use these human biases to your advantage, or how to overcome them, and analyses the psychology of human decision-making. The importance of storytelling to engage, using anchors to influence and how to organise complexity to make arguments persuasive are all covered to give a well-rounded foundation to oral advocacy, which goes far beyond the task of giving a little speech, and properly prepares students for the assignment – giving an effective presentation and utilising all they have learned in the course – at the end of the semester.

What truly makes this class however, is the lecturer, Prof Risse, a partner at Baker McKenzie in Frankfurt am Main, in the Dispute Resolution Group. He is an engaging speaker, who despite, and perhaps because of his wealth of experience and expertise, remains approachable, interested and supportive. The atmosphere in the class is notably light yet focused, making these workshops the highlight of the IDR LL.M. curriculum.


Cut Aina Hannisa, IDR LL.M. Candidate