Civil litigation is the type of law probably most closely associated with the idea of the lawyer from popular culture—the courtroom trial lawyer. This iconic depiction highlights legal skills like direct and cross examination of witnesses, oral argument, and brief drafting at both the trial and appellate level. While these are fundamental skills for litigators, in addition litigators usually specialize in an area of law through regular representation of clients involved in disputes within that area. Some litigators represent clients regardless of substantive law, but that is less common. Students interested in litigation are therefore encouraged to develop substantive expertise to be coupled with the core competencies expected of a litigator.
In addition to federal and state trial courts, litigators may appear before administrative agency adjudicatory bodies, specialty courts (like Tax Court or Bankruptcy Court), and appellate courts. A litigator’s skills are also used to resolve disputes outside the court system, such as with arbitration, or outside the adversary process, such as mediation.
Litigation positions exist in large, medium, and small sized law firms; in the federal government at the Department of Justice or U.S. Attorney’s Offices and at some agencies that do their own litigating (e.g., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission); in state and local governments through Attorney General offices; and within the legal departments of some corporations and labor unions that prefer to have their cases tried by their own in-house lawyers.
Reflecting its centrality to the practice of law, many of the courses foundational or recommended for nascent litigators are required courses for all graduates. These include Torts, Contracts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law I and II, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, and Professional Responsibility. With those foundations, students should in addition take courses that develop key litigation-related skills; and depending on the student’s interest, take doctrinal courses in a particular practice area. In addition, a placement as an extern (for academic credit) or an intern (no academic credit) in the chambers of a state or federal trial court judge is highly recommended for all students interested in civil litigation.
- Civil Procedure
- Constitutional Law I and II
- Criminal Law
- Criminal Procedure
- Professional Responsibility
- Advanced Torts
- Anatomy of a Civil Case
- Complex Litigation
- Conflict of Laws
- Federal Courts
- Securities Civil Litigation
Clinics, Skills, and Externships
- Alternative Dispute Resolution Techniques
- Appellate Advocacy
- Interviewing, Counseling, & Negotiating Skills
- Legal Drafting: Litigation or Dispositive Motions
- Mediation and Arbitration Skills
- Moot Court
- Trial Skills
- Trial Practice
- Trial Team
- Any CCLS Clinics involving litigation
- Externships with DOJ, State Attorney General offices, judges at the trial and appellate level, firms and solo practitioners with a litigation focus.
Faculty: Professors Alicea, Attridge, LaBelle, Kelly, Perez, Scordato, Walsh