Temple Law School welcomed Marian Braccia LAW ’06 back to North Broad Street in April as Director of the LL.M. in Trial Advocacy and Practice Professor of Law. Professor Braccia brings with her a wealth of experience in both litigation and leadership, acquired at her previous post in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. We checked in with her to learn more about her background, her expertise, and her vision for the LL.M. in Trial Advocacy program.
TLS: You’ve had an outstanding career at the Philadelphia DA’s office, serving in four administrations over a span of 12 years. Tell us more about the work you did there.
MB: My work at the District Attorney’s Office was challenging, rewarding, exhausting, and exhilarating all at the same time. Each time I prepped a witness, conducted follow up investigation, picked a jury or tried a case I had the chance to refine what “advocacy” means and to learn how persuasion impacts each and every stage of litigation. Over the course of 12 years I handled felony preliminary hearings and misdemeanor trials, prosecuted adult perpetrators for crimes against children, handled bench trials and jury trials in the Major Trials Unit and the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, ran the Charging Unit, and created the Domestic Violence Diversion Program. This work taught me the nuances of persuasion and how single facts can change the theory and approach to cases. In the Charging Unit, I really came to love investigations and value the pre-trial phase. We used all investigative tools at our disposal – including ever-expanding digital media evidence and criminal intelligence. I had the chance to lead the Domestic Violence Diversion Program, which launched in 2014. We took a holistic approach to combatting recidivism in domestic violence. That program was a labor of love from its inception through its execution. It’s been a great success and reminded me that ethics, judgment and best practices are important elements of advocacy.
My work at the office also included teaching. I was very fortunate to be given the chance to run the clinical program. This work reminded me how much I love thinking about how to teach persuasion and advocacy, and how much I love the art and the science of being a great trial lawyer. I suppose my career has come full circle. My own advocacy training started here at Temple Law as a student and led me to my work as a prosecutor. And my work as a prosecutor gave me the chance to discover my love for teaching and has brought me back home to Temple Law.
TLS: You developed particular expertise in courtroom technology and e-discovery issues – both very 21st century additions to classic trial skills. How has technology changed litigation practice?
MB: Can anyone say with a straight face that tech doesn’t run our lives? I mean, my two-year-old can unlock my iPhone! Tech plays a huge role in all major industries – healthcare, banking, certainly trade and retail, and our clients and jurists have come to expect to see tech in litigation as well. Of course, one of the first and biggest ways in which technology changed litigation was the digitization and storage of case law, statutes, and regulations. Technology advances, and with it, the efficiency of case dispositions, client consultations, and legal research and writing. With courts embracing eDiscovery and TAR (technology assisted review), arbiters may rely more heavily on data to resolve disputes. Litigation practice no longer revolves around a desktop or a law library or a records room; advanced computing and technology have allowed these operations to mobilize. Technology has even changed the way practitioners bill for their services, offering standardized billing codes and E-billing systems. I think no matter how far technology advances us, however, we must remember that law is a professional service industry. We must maintain our core competencies so that technology serves to enhance our representation and not usurp the compassion, humanity, and equity that should define our profession.
I suppose my career has come full circle. My own advocacy training started here at Temple Law as a student and led me to my work as a prosecutor. And my work as a prosecutor gave me the chance to discover my love for teaching and has brought me back home to Temple Law. ~Professor Marian Braccia
TLS: Some of the roles you took on at the DA’s office seemed to focus less on “trials” and more on “advocacy.” Was that an intentional shift on your part – if you see it as a shift at all?
MB: To me, trial work is a branch of advocacy. My mission at the DA’s Office, no matter the unit to which I was assigned, was always to seek justice, to advocate for what was right and just. Sometimes that meant proceeding to trial, always in good faith. Sometimes it meant pursuing a nontrial disposition. Sometimes it meant diverting an offender into treatment. Sometimes it meant declining prosecution altogether. If advocacy is the work done in support of a particular cause or outcome, then advocacy exists long before a jury is empaneled or opening statements commence.
TLS: Temple’s LL.M. in Trial Advocacy program was the first in the country, and remains at the forefront of advocacy education. What’s your vision for building the program and leading it forward?
MB: My vision for the LL.M. in Trial Advocacy is “T-shaped.” (And how convenient – T for Temple!) The “T-shaped person” was first described in the early ‘90s on the topic of computing jobs. Basically, a “T-shaped” person has a depth of knowledge in one discipline (the vertical stroke of the T) and a breadth of knowledge across multiple disciplines that allows for collaboration (the horizontal stroke of the T). There are global, economic, and technological forces that have revolutionized the practice of law. T- or Temple-shaped lawyers are best able to adapt to these changes and meet their professional demands. I hope to build the LL.M. in Trial Advocacy to cement Temple Law’s standing as a leader in producing graduates with advanced skills for ethical and extraordinary lawyering and client representation. We’ll do that by facilitating collaboration between our students and local and national leaders in the field of advocacy. With an eye toward our expanding global legal community, our LL.M. program will allow students to engage in culturally competent communications and advocacy. And, our special emphasis on courtroom technology and eDiscovery will set our graduates apart as innovative 21st century practitioners.