JD Curriculum – Electives: Litigation
Litigation is the process of resolving legal disputes in contexts such as trials before judges, juries, administrative panels and arbitrators.
Litigation takes place in civil and criminal matters; students who wish to become litigators should understand that lawyers settle the vast majority of disputes before trial. Lawyers first learn about the facts of the dispute Through the process of discovery, lawyers first learn more about the facts; parties then usually negotiate a settlement or criminal plea agreement.
Lawyers who consistently excel as litigators:
Thoroughly analyze a set of facts and determine the controversy.
When they first become involved, litigators evaluate a case by considering their clients' goals, assessing the applicable law, and developing a strategy for the best outcome.
Develop mutual trust and respect with their clients.
Litigators listen carefully to their clients, counsel them thoughtfully, help their clients identify realistic goals, and communicate with them effectively.
Skillfully interview witnesses in informal and formal settings.
Litigators understand the evidentiary implications of their choices; they know when and how to converse informally, take witness statements, and conduct depositions.
Write clearly and persuasively.
Litigators who can write effective letters, pleadings, briefs, and other documents substantially increase the chance of a positive outcome for their clients.
Firmly grasp of the litigation rules and process.
Litigators understand the rules of evidence, criminal procedure, civil procedure, jurisdictional statutes, procedural statutes, and many local rules.
To be successful, litigators know how and when to negotiate for their client's best outcome.
Can competently try a case.
To maximize the opportunity for a favorable settlement, and to effectively represent clients when cases do not settle, litigators must be willing and able to try a case.
To develop the skills above, all students interested in litigation should take the following courses (additional courses are recommended). Where noted, certain courses are essential or recommended for particular areas of litigation concentration.
- Trial Advocacy
- Business Associations (essential for civil and white-collar crime practitioners)
- Also See “Criminal Law” for essential courses for criminal litigation
- Federal Courts (For those interested in civil rights or constitutional litigation)
- Litigation is skills-based. However, a good grounding in one or more substantive fields is also important. The following recommendations assume you will add courses from your substantive field to your plan.
Pretrial Skills (one or more - those with * meet the Practical Skills requirement):
- Pretrial Practice (Civil)*
- Consumer and Commercial Law Clinic*
- Criminal Practice Clinic*
- Advanced Criminal Practice Clinic*
- Fundamentals of Law Practice (can only be taken first year)
- Litigation Externship/Residency*
- Mediation Clinic*
Trial Skills (one or more - these are also Practical Skills Courses):
- Advanced Trial Advocacy
- Expert Witnesses and Scientific Evidence
- Criminal Practice Clinic or Consumer and Commercial Law Clinic
- Court Externship/Residency
- Advanced Patent Litigation (for IP litigators)
Writing Skills (one or more - those with * meet the Upper-Level Writing requirement):
- Appellate Advocacy*
- Judicial Opinion Drafting*
- Fundamentals of Law Practice (can only be taken in first year)
- Pretrial Practice*
- Writing for Law Practice*
Client-Centered Skills (one or more):
- Live-Client Clinic
- Client-Contact Externship/Residency
- Dispute Resolution
- Law Office Management
- Employment Law (relevant to civil, business or civil rights litigation
- International Criminal Law Seminar (online only)
- Intellectual Property Crimes