Michael Hardin ’14 knows which notes to play for successful criminal and civil arguments—and they don’t require histrionics.
The Fordham Law Trial Advocacy adjunct instructor imparts litigation wisdom obtained from three judicial clerkships and his deep knowledge of the Federal Rules of Evidence and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when preparing his pupils for competition. Emphasis on technical “nuts and bolts” items, such as deposition designations and notice issues pertaining to expert witnesses, allows students to engage with the legal matter before them rather than resorting to theatrics as some competitors do.
“My clerking experience helps the students I coach present a more realistic-looking trial, with a more correct application of the Federal Rules of Evidence,” explains Hardin, who himself competed with the Brendan Moore Trial Advocates on an intra-school competition winner in 2012.
In January, Hardin began a yearlong clerkship with the Hon. Christopher F. Droney of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He previously clerked under two distinguished Fordham Law alumni—the Hon. Vincent Briccetti ’80 of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and subsequently with the Hon. Claire Cecchi ’89 of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Hardin, a classically trained pianist, chose Fordham over attending the Manhattan School of Music’s jazz piano master’s program. The Law and Order fan aspired to one day work as a prosecutor, like his mother, Susan, a deputy state’s attorney in Vermont.
However, unlike many of his classmates, Hardin lacked a detailed plan on how to achieve his goal. Clerking, he points out, did not emerge on his radar until his Evidence instructor, Professor Daniel Capra, encouraged him his 3L spring semester to apply for clerkships.
Hardin worked for a year as an associate at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP before starting his clerkship with Judge Briccetti in White Plains in September 2015. The judge’s practical approach to decision-making, based on Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, made an imprint on Hardin. The Federal Rules, according to Rule 1, are designed to secure “just, speedy, and inexpensive” determinations.
Hardin’s decision to take a second district court clerkship was, in his own words, unusual, in that it was not designed to build his résumé. He chose to clerk with Judge Cecchi, whom he interned with during his 3L spring. Hardin’s quest for legal knowledge continues in the Second Circuit with Judge Droney, an experience the clerk describes as valuable for its “bird’s-eye view” of a finished case.
“Before I went to law school, I was a musician who thought in terms of developing my career skill set and broadening my ability to be effective in different situations,” Hardin says. His career path changed, but his approach, particularly as it pertained to choosing clerkships that would advance his career, did not. “It’s your craft,” he explains.