Intensive Trial Advocacy

Author: Susan Good

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Some of the best litigators and judges in North America gathered at Eck Hall of Law to teach Notre Dame Law Students the art of advocacy during the week-long Intensive Trial Advocacy course, January 3-10, 2010.

Second- and third-year law students are eligible to enroll in the course, which begins a week before the start of each semester. “We cover all parts of the trial and go from a 7:30 am faculty meeting and an 8:30 am start with the students until 6:30 p.m.,” says Professor James Seckinger, who developed the popular course in 2003 and has led it ever since. “After a week of simulated courtroom exercises, our judges couldn’t believe they were the same students. Many commented that they were better than some of the lawyers they see practicing in their courtrooms.”

Thomas Heiden of Latham & Watkins LLP, one of the participating “faculty” members, had this to say about the program:

“What a service to the profession and the art of trial advocacy…Professor Seckinger assembles a large group of the very top trial lawyers and trial judges from across the U.S. and Canada. The presentations and demonstrations are extremely well choreographed…Each student learns and develops skills at a remarkable pace. Congratulations. I believe [Notre Dame Law School is] providing these young men and women a professional academic experience simply not offered anywhere else.”

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While teaching with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy [NITA], Seckinger developed his own case-study approach to teaching trial advocacy. He has developed this innovative method for learning advocacy skills through teaching practicing lawyers and law students. Seckinger comments that teaching practicing lawyers working in the profession and law students in the academy has a synergistic effect on both.

Intensive Trial Ad participants continue to meet once a week throughout the duration of the spring semester. During that time, each student acts as a trial lawyer in two trials—one jury and one judge trial—and also serves as a witness or observer in one jury and one judge trial.