Trial Advocacy Curriculum

The First Year

In the first year, Legal Research and Writing introduces students to the mechanics of persuasive writing, pleading practice, and oral argument. The program includes: Litigation-oriented writing exercises; year-end moot court argument; jury and witness service for upper-level mock trials.

The Second Year

In the second year, most students take Evidence and Introduction to Trial Advocacy (ITA) – as either separate semester-long basic courses, or as part of a two-semester Integrated Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP). Evidence is taught through the use of trial transcripts and hypothetical problems where students are required to assume the role of trial lawyers by making and meeting objections, offers of proof, and motions in limine.

  • All weekly performance sections are limited to 12 students.
  • Each student performs in every class.
  • Exercises include examinations of lay and expert witnesses, impeachment of witnesses, offering exhibits, openings and closings, and objection practice.
  • Year-end mock jury trials are held in county and federal courtrooms.
  • Weekly demonstration and lecture series supplement performance sections.
  • ITAP is taught by full-time advocacy professors in conjunction with trial lawyers and judges.

The Integrated Trial Advocacy Program

Temple's ABA award-winning Integrated Program in Trial Advocacy remains a 4-course, 10 credit, year-long initiative. During the first semester, students take Evidence and Trial Advocacy I where they are introduced to criminal trial advocacy through the use of two case files. Weekly performances emphasize skills training in the art of examination, objections practice and speech-making, and developing a case theory. In the second semester, while students study motions and discovery practice in Civil Procedure II, they engage in three pre-trial litigation stages before proceeding to trial.

In ITAP:

  • Each student masters at least three mock files and tries at least two cases to verdict, each preceded by a strategy and case theory session.
  • Students receive 20 hours of evidence instruction before trial advocacy classes begin.
  • In Trial Ad I, students try a criminal bench and jury trial.
  • In Trial Ad II, students argue four pre-trial motions, take two depositions, advocate in mediation, and examine expert witnesses.
  • Student performances may be recorded and reviewed with the student by the instructors.

Learn More About The Integrated Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP)

Advanced Trial Advocacy

There are three Advanced Trial Advocacy (ATA) Classes which are available to students who have successfully completed ITAP or ITA. ATA enables students to polish their litigation and courtroom skills. There is an additional ATA class which also requires membership on the National Trial Team. Like ITAP and ITA, each ATA class is capped at twelve students and is student performance driven with faculty critique. All ATA classes are supplemented by demonstrations and lectures.

The focus of ATA is on the trial as the sum of its parts. The courses require students to craft examinations and speeches as part of an analytically sound case theory that governs their trial performance. ATA offers more personalized instruction and exhaustive critique than does ITA or ITAP. "Real world" experts are brought into the classroom to give the students the opportunity to prepare and examine professional witnesses. Witnesses have included fire marshals, forensic economists and statisticians, psychologists, ballisticians, firearms examiners, and physicians. ATA is offered in both civil and criminal advocacy.

ATA: Criminal

The Advanced Trial Advocacy Criminal class is designed to give students a broader experience and deeper understanding of more complex issues that arise during a criminal prosecution. Each week students perform different trial skills as prosecutors and defense attorneys, while exploring pre trial proceedings and advanced trial issues. Students use a variety of case file problems to litigate preliminary hearings, conduct pretrial motions to suppress evidence, direct and cross examine informants, and admit and oppose surveillance tapes. Students also have the opportunity to prepare and examine "real" experts, such as fire marshals, during expert witness exercises. They also learn how to effectively use trial presentation software, like TrialDirector Suite, to enhance the persuasiveness of their presentations. The final and mid-semester assignments are mock criminal jury trials.

ATA: Civil

Advanced Trial Advocacy Civil explores the relationship between case theory and witness examination in civil litigation. Students work primarily with two case files during the semester: an agency liability claim related to a third party assault and an insurance fraud claim stemming from allegations of arson. The civil trial is broken into its component parts during each of which students explore how case theory informs strategic choices at each stage of the trial. Students learn how to look at a case as an integrate whole, while learning advanced techniques in opening statements, closing arguments, direct and cross examinations, and impeachment. Following a mid semester trial, students work with experts in depth, learning from, preparing, and examining real economists and fire marshals. They also explore the most persuasive ways to present evidence on damages. Students learn how trial presentation software can enhance advanced impeachment techniques, by using real time video and transcript testimony. The final assignment is a mock civil jury trial.

ATA: Speechmaking

ATA: Speechmaking (offered only in the fall) explores the art of crafting and delivering a persuasive speech and compelling argument. Principles of persuasion will be identified and analyzed. Students will consider the use of speechmaking in a variety of contexts that arise in legal practice. Forums include opening statements and closing speeches to juries, judges, and arbitrators, addresses to a jury venire and speeches to mediators. Students focus on preparing, organizing and drafting speeches, using exhibits, quoting witnesses, explaining burdens of proof, incorporating judicial instructions, calling opponents on mistakes and misstatements in their speeches, and avoiding impermissible arguments while delivering a speech.

ATA: Trial Team

Trial team competition teaches students how to meet the practical challenges courtroom lawyers face in the intensely competitive arena of mock trial tournaments. In addition to polishing and honing their basic advocacy skills, students are taught how to analyze and master a trial file, take control of the courtroom, discipline hostile and aggressive witnesses, handle difficult judges and turn the law of evidence into their ally. The trial team experience teaches students how to be trial lawyers - how to win fairly and squarely. Trial team members are chosen through a competitive selection process and earn academic additional credit for taking Advanced Evidence and Trial Strategy workshops and for competition participation.

In their first year of membership, students earn 4 credits. In their second year on the team, students earn three credits. Team members try at least two cases per year - one each in the fall and spring in addition to enrolling in one of the two following ATA courses:

ATA: Trial Team Pre-Trial Motions Practice

The course requires students to draft and argue a series of offensive and defensive pre-trial motions in limine, before and during a trial. Students explore whether, and if so, under what circumstances, a pre-trial motion adequately preserves error for appeal. Motions are considered a form of speech-making making where students learn to push their case theories in the context of evidentiary argument. A writing component requires students to draft and argue a series of pre-trial motions in limine.

ATA: Trial Team Evidence and Strategy

Students define, research, and digest a case file's evidentiary issues as they arise thematically in the file and then litigate the evidence - through argument and motions - as it develops through examinations. The course focuses on the way in which evidentiary concepts emerge and re-appear in eclectic ways throughout the trial and the alternative ways they may be addressed. Students explore the integrated relationships and inter-dependencies between evidentiary concepts as addressed in the rules of evidence and procedure and throughout decisional law. A writing component requires students to draft a series of advocate's motions and memoranda pertaining to evidentiary issues, the form it may take, the structure of the argument, styles of presentation, the type of underlying law necessary to support it and the ways in which rulings will impact upon and require adjustment to examinations and speeches. Students are required to draft and conduct a series of examinations during which they will lay and challenge foundations for particular pieces of evidence and make and meet objections.

Litigation and Advocacy Related Courses

There are a variety of litigation related courses that may be of additional interest, depending on whether students intend to pursue a career in civil litigation, criminal litigation, or just know that they want to be in court.

Fall Semester

Advocacy for Transactional Lawyers

This course offers advocacy techniques for those who anticipate practice in a non-litigation setting. Students work with the basic principles of advocacy that apply in various situations likely to be encountered in transactional and hybrid practice settings. Elements include theory and psychology of persuasion; rhetoric and argument devices, and communication skills. The course offers some exposure to the basics of questioning techniques and short arguments on the premise that non-litigators will need to appear in administrative settings (hearings and group presentations). The negotiation process is analyzed, with emphasis on advocacy techniques that can be employed along the way. The lawyering situations in this course include: advising the client, and persuading why a particular course of action is in the client's best interests; negotiation - planning and use of techniques in the stages of the process; supporting a work product - making the oral presentation of an assignment; building cooperation in work groups - using brainstorming and other leadership techniques; marketing - basic theory/psychology of "selling", using practice anecdotes to understand storytelling technique; essentials of advocacy at administrative hearings; crossover - common characteristics of effective written and oral advocacy.

Appellate Advocacy

Students attend oral arguments in various state and federal appellate courts, and experienced appellate advocates appear as guest lecturers. The class will be provided with a transcript of a real trial and will be required to submit an appellate brief and thereafter to argue the case as if they were before an appellate court.

Anatomy for Litigators

This course explores the medical/legal issues related to personal injury claims. In addition to discussing human anatomy from a litigator's perspective, the course will examine issues related to theories of liability and defense, expert testimony, diagnostic tests, medical records, and HIPAA.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

This course covers the main methods to resolving litigation alternative to trial: competitive negotiation; principled negotiation; mediation; and arbitration. In addition, a segment of the course explores ways in which courts are using ADR and in which states are creating ADR units to mediate public-impact disputes. The pedagogy includes overview lectures, readings, role plays, videos, and several guest speakers.

Criminal Tax Litigation (White Collar Crime)

This is a Graduate Tax Program course. JD students must obtain permission to register from Assistant Dean Thompson or Professor Mandelbaum.

Interviewing, Negotiating and Counseling

This course provides an in-depth study of pre-litigation lawyering skills. Readings include legal and nonlegal materials on interpersonal relationships. Students engage in video and audio-tape simulation exercises.

Spring Semester

Advanced Litigation Strategies

This writing seminar provides an intensive examination of the theory and practice concerning the examination of witnesses and the boundaries of relevant evidence with the primary focus on selected topics of impeachment and rehabilitation. The seminar is designed to provide an in-depth understanding of the trial process system from the perspective of the courtroom lawyer, an ability to perform certain trial skills within the ambit of witness examination and an analysis of both trial tactics and techniques as well as trial rules and procedures.

Appellate Advocacy

In the spring semester the course is offered as a writing seminar and provides an intensive study of the appellate process, brief writing, and oral argument. Topics include theories of persuasion, argument development, and strategic considerations in brief writing and oral argument. Students will research, brief, and argue a case on appeal.

Patent Litigation

This course addresses the manner in which patent cases are litigated. Topics to be covered include preparation and content of the complaint and answer, discovery, the role of expert witnesses, preliminary injunctions, claim construction, the "Markman hearing," proof of infringement and damages, jury instructions, and appeals. There will be a number of hands-on exercises and a final examination.

Trial Advocacy Clinical Programs

Temple's litigation and advocacy clinical courses provide students with the opportunity to use their newly acquired advocacy skills to represent clients in court under the supervision of experienced mentors. Judges often identify student advocates as Temple law students based on their courtroom proficiency and skill level.

Criminal Litigation Clinics include:

  • Bucks County District Attorney;
  • Camden Public Defender;
  • Death Penalty Litigation (fall only);
  • Defender Association of Philadelphia;
  • Federal Defender;
  • Pennsylvania Innocence Project;
  • Philadelphia District Attorney;
  • US Attorney;
  • US Attorney: Health Care Fraud (spring only).

Civil Litigation Clinics include:

  • City Solicitor: Claims Litigation;
  • Domestic Violence;
  • Philadelphia Housing Court;
  • SEPTA Tort Litigation;
  • Temple Legal Aid Office (TLAO)--Family Law;
  • TLAO--Civil Practice Health Care;
  • US Attorney--Bankruptcy.

Learn More About Temple's Clinical Programs