Trial and Advocacy Program
Program experience, excellence, and guaranteed opportunities for all law students are the hallmarks of the Trial and Advocacy Program at Washington University School of Law. Experienced, full-time law faculty work with accomplished lawyers and judges to teach our courses. The consistent success of the Trial Team and numerous Appellate Moot Court Teams reflect excellence. Students take legal practice and research classes in their first year and enroll in applied lawyering/practical skills as upper-level students. A wide variety of clinical courses are available, allowing students to develop these practical lawyering skills to represent clients as student-lawyers working on real cases in local, state, and federal courts. TAP has earned the Emil Gumpert Award for Excellence in Teaching Trial Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers.
At Washington University School of Law, learning how to be a lawyer is valued as much as learning how to think like a lawyer. Students take courses to think and solve problems as lawyers from the first day. Instruction in basic lawyering skills and professional values serve as the foundation for TAP’s courses and competitions. Course descriptions are located at our Course Information and Directory page.
Pretrial and Trial Advocacy Basic Courses
- Legal Practice and Research is required for all first-year law students: the writing component is Legal Practice and the required research course is Legal Research Methodologies. Students take both courses each semester in their first year of law school. Although these courses are separate, they are coordinated so that writing projects utilize legal research skills.
- Evidence serves as a prerequisite for Trial Practice & Procedure (as well as other practical skills courses and clinics) and is highly recommended for second-year law students. Topics covered include relevancy and its limits, various policy and efficiency based limitations on the receipt of evidence, the rule against hearsay and the more important hearsay exceptions, rules governing the impeachment of witnesses, privilege and expert testimony.
- Pretrial Practice & Settlement is also recommended in the second year, using the skills learned as first-year students in legal practice and research. Civil Procedure is a prerequisite; however, Employment Discrimination, Employment Law, Evidence, and Professional Responsibility are considered helpful if taken before or at the same time. Students focus on developing the skills necessary for effective client representation at the pretrial stage of litigation—from initial interview through settlement negotiations. Drafting pleadings, arguing motions, and taking depositions along with in-class simulation exercises center around problems based on real cases.
- Trial Practice & Procedure is taken by nearly half of the student body. Students learn and perform various aspects of trying and presenting a lawsuit, including development of a theory and theme, jury selection, opening statement, direct and cross-examination of lay witnesses and experts, the use and introduction of real and demonstrative evidence, and closing argument. Students prepare and conduct two complete trials from voir dire to verdict. Students who have completed Evidence prior to taking this course will be given registration preference and students who plan to take Evidence concurrently with Trial need the permission of the instructor before enrolling; Pretrial is not a prerequisite for Trial.
Advanced Litigation and Appellate Advocacy Courses
- Advanced Trial Advocacy requires Trial Practice & Procedure as a prerequisite (and Evidence is a prerequisite for Trial Practice & Procedure). This course is designed for students who intend to be litigators and provides them with an opportunity to further develop skills learned in the basic Trial Practice and Procedure course as well as learn new trial skills, including the use of computers in the courtroom. The course focuses on techniques used in federal courts and uses actual case and investigative materials from federal criminal cases.
- Advanced Trial Advocacy: Civil is designed for students who have an interest in litigation and provides them with an opportunity to further develop skills learned in the basic Trial Practice & Procedure course as well as learn new trial skills, including integrating state of the art technology into effective trial presentations and focusing on trial techniques. Each week trial practice issues are discussed while students practice aspects of trial work such as jury selection, opening statements, direct and cross-examination, working with expert witnesses, and closing argument. The final class ends with a jury trial.
- Other practice courses such as Civil Rights Litigation, Intellectual Property Litigation, Media Litigation, Securities Law Litigation & Arbitration, Jury Instructions & the Trial Process, Appellate Advocacy Seminar, Appellate Advocacy, and International Tribunals Practice & Procedure blend theory and practice using problem-solving and simulations where students act as lawyers.
Mandatory Applied Lawyering/Professional Skills Courses
- Students are required to take at least one Applied Lawyering / Professional Skills course to graduate and may choose from a variety offered every semester. ALPS courses focus on problem solving in the context of planning and drafting.
- Examples of ALPS courses are Trial Practice and Procedure; Pretrial Practice and Procedure; Business Negotiation Theory and Practice; Mediation Theory and Practice; Advanced Legal Writing; and many clinical education programs. For a list of courses offered in a given semester, search for ALPS courses in WUCRSL.
(Go to: https://acadinfo.wustl.edu/Courselistings/Semester/Search.aspx.)
Mandatory Applied Ethics Courses
- To meet graduation requirements, students must take one ethics course. The law school offers a variety of such courses that satisfy this requirement. For a list of courses offered in a given semester, search for Ethics courses in Law on WUCRSL. (Go to: https://acadinfo.wustl.edu/Courselistings/Semester/Search.aspx.)