Law School Course Areas and Related Classes
WHAT THIS AREA IS ABOUT. Civil procedure is an important building-block course in the first year, but it may well be insufficient to prepare you for engaging in a litigation practice. The dramatic expansion of the role of litigation in our society in recent years, with the accompanying development of new procedural mechanisms, makes advanced or specialized courses in civil procedure important for students planning to do litigation.
In determining which advanced litigation courses you should take, consider the kind of practice you expect to pursue. For example, if you anticipate a family law, probate, or real estate litigation practice, you may want to emphasize state court litigation. If you anticipate practicing in federal law matters (such as securities, antitrust, intellectual property, or constitutional law), you may want to emphasize federal court litigation. Of course, many lawyers' litigation practices involve both systems; the availability of diversity jurisdiction in federal courts often results in such cases as personal injury, product liability, and commercial law being brought in federal courts, particularly if substantial sums are at stake. An increasing number of civil disputes are also being resolved outside the courts, either in administrative processes or through alternative dispute settlement mechanisms such as arbitration or mediation.
COURSE OFFERINGS: The courses related to civil litigation can be grouped in several categories.
1. Courses basic to litigation in any court system. Evidence is a basic course for any litigation practice. A litigator must have a good grasp of the rules of evidence. Prospective litigators should take Evidence as soon as possible. It is especially useful in clinics and simulation courses.
Remedies deals with the bottom line of litigation: what the court can do for a claimant who wins. The course covers such remedies as compensatory and punitive damages, injunctions, declaratory judgment, and restitution, as well as means of enforcing judgments.
Conflict of Laws is important to anyone whose practice may include civil litigation. It deals with litigation of cases involving connections with more than one state or nation, a common feature of contemporary litigation. The course shows how the place of trial is determined, how American courts will choose law, and how judgments can be executed in such cases. The course and seminar on International Litigation or International Litigation and Arbitration focus on similar problems in the context of international disputes.
A course on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms such as arbitration and mediation has also become essential to anyone whose practice includes civil litigation, given the increasing tendency of courts to divert civil litigation to ADR. The law school's ADR course offerings are discussed further below. In some years, a course on Professional Responsibility for Litigators is offered as a way for students to satisfy their professional responsibility requirement.
2. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) courses. Alternative Dispute Resolution is an overview and introduction to this subject. However, the law school also offers a number of more specialized ADR courses, which students may opt to take instead of the introductory course (the introductory course is not a prerequisite for any other course). The course in Negotiation, taught in several sections in small classes, focuses on developing skills in this area by having students participate in practical negotiation exercises. The course in Mediation is also skills-oriented, and is a prerequisite for the Mediation Clinic in which students handle actual cases referred by local courts. In past years, seminars have also been offered on Arbitration, International Commercial Arbitration, and Dispute Resolution in Public Policy and Government Disputes.
3. State litigation courses. A study of state court litigation should begin with Texas Civil Procedure Survey, a course that covers pretrial, trial and appellate procedure in the Texas state courts. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure have drawn heavily on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but distinctive Texas procedures remain as to such matters as venue, discovery, and the court's charge to the jury. The course also provides a more detailed and practical coverage of the litigation process than is possible in the first-year Civil Procedure course. The course is adequate preparation for the Texas civil procedure portions of the Texas bar exam, and is a prerequisite for the advanced course on Texas Civil Litigation: Pretrial and Trial Strategy, and for certain advanced advocacy and trial skills classes (discussed below).
4. Federal litigation courses. Federal Courts is important to an understanding of constitutional litigation and the limits of federal judicial power. The course focuses on the dual courts/dual law system. Problems of access to federal courts or federal l judicial lawmaking power are considered in relation to federal courts as forums for public interest litigation, national regulation of businesses, and mass disasters. Seminars on Class Actions are advanced procedural courses focusing on the complex issues presented by this particular form of litigation. Other advanced courses focus on litigation in specific areas of the law, such as Bankruptcy Litigation, Constitutional Litigation, Environmental Litigation, Maritime Injuries Litigation, Supreme Court Litigation, Domestic Violence and the Law and Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights.
5. Administrative litigation courses. Litigation before administrative agencies is often overlooked by students, because of the first year focus on court litigation. Administrative litigation can be a significant part of contemporary practice, involving either federal or state law. Administrative Law is the basic survey course for a student interested in administrative litigation, providing an overview of the system of administrative rulemaking and adjudication.
6. Advocacy and trial skills courses. Trial skills are taught in basic courses, in litigation clinics, and in specialized courses and seminars. Most courses include both classroom and workshop (simulation) components. Basic trials skills are taught in Advocacy Survey, which exposes students to the basics of persuasive techniques in a variety of litigation settings, and Intensive Trial Skills, a more rigorous and competitive class that allows students to try both civil and criminal cases. Students who have taken both Evidence and Texas Civil Procedure may take Civil Litigation Skills (Intermediate), and may then proceed to Civil Litigation (Advanced), and finally to Advocacy Practice & Theory for the New Millennium.
7. Clinics and Internships. There are numerous clinics and internships that offer students hands-on experience in civil and criminal litigation. Some clinics require students to have completed 43 credit hours, but other clinics and all of the internships are available to students after the first two semesters. See the section on Clinics and Internships for full information.
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