Joseph Itkis ’14
Counsel for the Appellant
Joseph Itkis ’14 has made it a point to seize every opportunity for applying what he learns in Columbia Law School classrooms to real-world problems and situations. So he was especially thrilled when he found out that the issues at the heart of this year’s Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court competition were nearly identical to those involved in two high-profile cases currently working their way through the federal court system.
“It’s not like the facts are made up by a few people and are very artificial,” says Itkis, who graduated from Yeshiva University in 2011 with a degree in psychology. “This is a very real scenario.”
Itkis counts himself lucky to have focused intensively on brief-writing and oral argument strategy before entering the Stone Moot Court competition, which is part of the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison Moot Court Program. As a first-year student, he participated in the American Intellectual Property Law Association’s inter-law school moot court competition, writing multiple drafts of briefs and practicing oral argument technique once or twice a week for several months.
Earlier this year, Itkis sought out experiential learning opportunities that would work to supplement his classroom and moot court training. He is participating in an externship with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, representing indigent defendants in misdemeanor criminal cases. By presenting his clients’ arguments in hearings before various judges, Itkis has further sharpened his oral argument skills.
“You’re trying to connect with the judge as a human being,” he says. “It’s formal, it’s respectful, but if you come off as a robot, then you’re not making any kind of connection. Instead of memorizing a script, it’s a lot more helpful to know what you want to say and then to go out there and say it naturally.”
This semester at the Law School, Itkis is participating in the trial practice seminar taught by practicing attorney and lecturer-in-law Karen Shatzkin. He says he is looking forward to the final exam, which entails students participating in a simulated trial, complete with a real judge and actors playing the roles of jury members and witnesses. “What I enjoy most about the law and law school,” he says, “is the practical, real-world component.”
This summer Itkis will work at Fitzpatrick & Hunt, a boutique Manhattan law firm that specializes in aviation cases.
This program is made possible by the generous support of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.