Civil litigators – also known as trial lawyers – represent clients in civil lawsuits, which can be resolved through arbitration, mediation, trial, or settlement. They spend much of their time on pre-trial matters such as investigating facts, researching law, drafting pleadings, engaging in discovery, negotiating with opponents, participating in mediation, filing motions, writing briefs, and preparing cases to be tried. Although most cases are resolved through some form of settlement, the pre-trial process aims to gather and organize the information that will be needed should a trial be necessary. In addition, litigators must have the confidence and skills to try a case to a judge or jury or s/he will not be able to adequately represent the client’s interests.
Foundation Courses – Introducing the Basic Concepts
- Civil Procedure I & II
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Trial Techniques
- Professional Responsibility (required)
Note that Evidence is a prerequisite for Trial Advocacy/Trial Techniques I as well as for some of the clinics. Students interested in a litigation specialty should take Evidence as soon as possible.
Recommended Courses – Basic Electives for Litigators
Courses Combining Substantive Law & Procedural Issues
- Complex Litigation
- Conflict of Laws
- Federal Courts
- International Litigation and Arbitration (GW)
- Texas Pre-Trial Procedure
- Texas Trial & Appellate Procedure (if planning to practice in Texas)
- Pre-Trial Practice & Advocacy
- Appellate Advocacy
- Civil Rights Litigation
- Patent Litigation
- Securities Litigation and Enforcement
Many of the law school clinics help students develop both lawsuit oriented skills and other skills (such as interviewing, negotiation, and fact investigation) that will be important in a litigation practice.
- Criminal Clinic
- Hunter Clinic
- VanSickle Clinic
- Actual Innocence Clinic
- Tax Clinic
- Civil Clinic
- Consumer Advocacy Project
- Child Advocacy Clinic
In addition to an understanding of litigation processes, trial lawyers must also understand the areas of law involved in their cases. Students should therefore consider substantive courses in litigation-intensive areas. See the Guides for other areas for lists of basic courses in various fields.
A large number of externship opportunities are with federal or state judges, government agencies, district attorneys, and public defenders, most of which involve exposure to litigation activities.
Public Service Placements
Many of the Pre-Approved Public Service Placements allow participating students to acquire litigation skills and experience while also providing community service.
- Board of Advocates
- Moot Court Board
- Texas Trial Lawyers Association (student chapter)
Here are some of the full-time faculty members who teach or have an interest in this area: