It’s not every day that TJSL students, faculty and staff get to hear from a genuine legend.
And Michael Tigar is just that. He is among America’s greatest lawyers, behind only Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Darrow, according to California Attorneys for Criminal Justice “Lawyer of the Century” balloting. That is select company.
He gave two presentations at TJSL on Tuesday, October 23; the first on labor law titled "Worker Rights Under Attack: Outsourcing and Globalization”. The second presentation was a training in the art of cross-examination. These events were co-sponsored by The TJSL Center for Law and Social Justice, the TJSL Faculty Colloquium Committee, the National Lawyers Guild-TJSL chapter, and the National Lawyers Guild-San Diego chapter.
“Professor Tigar gave an entertaining and informative lecture at TJSL, said Professor Meera Deo of the labor law presentation. “He spoke broadly on ways in which the rights of workers around the world are intertwined.
“I was inspired by the many ways he tied together concepts from various areas of the law and society generally. For instance, he made clear early on that if our immigration policy shifts to focus on deporting workers from factories in the United States, ‘the sewing machines will follow’ soon after as globalization encourages pursuit of the low(est)-wage worker (whether domestically or abroad). It was also wonderful to hear him draw on his wealth of experience as a litigator over decades of legal practice.”
Quoting Bob Dylan, Professor Tigar said, “these times they are a changing,” speaking of the challenges he feels those practicing labor law are going to face.
He geared his comments to two main themes: Outsourcing and Globalization, and how they are bound together.
Professor Tigar talked quite a bit about the history of labor law and the need for lawyers to continue to help workers through community meetings, which are protected under the First Amendment, despite efforts of many companies to use federal extortion statues under RICO to try to put a stop to the union organizing.
“The law of community organizing empowers communities to organize against outsourcing companies,” he said.
Most of all, Professor Tigar stressed the personal commitment lawyers must make to the workers’ cause. “American law is not doing the job for disadvantaged workers,” he said.
“Professor Tigar stressed the importance of students using their legal skills to help the community,” said Professor Marjorie Cohn, a close colleague of Tigar. “He discussed the benefits of setting up small law offices to defend workers who are organizing to protect their legal right to freedom of association.”
“As lawyers, we have this opportunity to embrace the change that is coming,” Professor Tigar said. “This challenge is the finest hour of lawyers to shape what the law needs to be to serve the people (workers) and contribute to their liberation.”
Alonso Zavalasoto 2L attended the cross examination skills training later in the afternoon. “I’m glad our school is inviting prominent attorneys like Mr. Tigar. That's definitely a great way to learn new trial advocacy techniques,” said Zavalasoto, who is interning at the Alternate Public Defenders Office. “I went to see Michael Tigar's seminar because he is one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country and that's what I want to be: a criminal defense attorney at the Public Defender’s Office. Several PDs attended the session and were talking about it at work.”
Zavalasoto walked away learning some valuable tricks of the trade that he plans to put into practice. “His advice on the use of his hand in order to tell the jury that there are always two sides to every story during opening statement was brilliant and I will probably use it in my next Mock Trial competition. Also, his advice on how to discredit an expert witness during cross-examination was very informative as well.”
“I was fascinated by Mike Tigar's presentation,” said Andrew Eckhart 1L about Tigar’s presentation. “Professor Tigar clearly has a strong belief in what former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor calls the ‘Majesty of the Law’. He has learned to combine this belief with his respect for people and his skills as a litigator. This combination creates a tremendous enthusiasm for his profession which you can sense when you listen to him speak. He is the kind of person you definitely want to go out of your way to meet. All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience.”
TJSL Professor Lilys McCoy also attended the cross examination skills training held in the Moot Court Room. “I think that the most useful piece of advice was that before you even begin crafting your cross examination, you have to make sure that you have, to the best of your ability, collected every prior statement that the witness has made,” she said.
McCoy explained why she attended the event. “One of the keys to being a good lawyer is finding and leveraging opportunities to learn and improve throughout your career,” McCoy said. “There is always something new to be gained, especially from someone with the depth and breadth of experience of a Michael Tigar. Basically, anytime I have an opportunity to hear one of the lions of the profession speak, I jump at it. And, judging from the audience, so do many long-time local practitioners.”
The cross examination skills training was open to local attorneys who received two hours of MCLE credit.