Trial Advocacy Programs

Trial advocacy skills enhance every lawyer's abilities in virtually every area of law practice. The essential elements of trial practice - organized argument, the development of theories and themes, confidence in presentation, extemporaneous speech, application of law to fact - are skills required by all lawyers in every discipline, wherever and to whomever they are called upon to make presentations. Good lawyers should not have to add to the complex calculus of whether to litigate and go to the trial, the fact that they don't know how to do so. No student should leave Temple without understanding how to try a case.

At Temple, full-time faculty members are joined by experienced adjunct faculty in a program which combines theory and doctrine with practice and performance. Innovative teaching methods, an award-winning Integrated Trial Advocacy Program, advanced trial advocacy courses, extensive clinical offerings in litigation and advocacy and a nationally ranked mock trial team are the hallmarks of Temple's disciplined approach to trial advocacy. While a career as a trial advocate is certainly not for everybody, a trial advocacy course should be; at Temple it assuredly is.

Here's why:

In both 1989 and in 2002 the American College of Trial Lawyers awarded Temple the Emil Gumpert Award for "excellence in teaching trial advocacy." We are the only school to have won the award twice. In 1993, the American Bar Association's Committee on Professionalism awarded our Integrated Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP), the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award. For the last ten years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Temple number one or two in trial advocacy among the country's law schools.

This web site describes Temple's Trial Advocacy Program and the courses it offers. It provides flow-charts which will help students who want to concentrate in trial advocacy navigate a comprehensive course of study and lists advocacy related courses in the curriculum which will enrich the course of study.

The Teaching Method

Simply put, Temple trains trial lawyers. We do it through a teaching model that has been developed and honed over time. Trial Advocacy is taught through the popular "learning by doing" method. Trial Ad classes are capped at 12 students and run for approximately 150 minutes to ensure maximum student performance time. Mid and end-of-semester mock trials are preceded by a session where case theory and trial strategy are discussed

In every Trial Ad section, students perform and instructors critique. Lectures, which introduce students to a skill to be performed in class, and demonstrations, which show students how a polished advocate performs the skill - available on blackboard or presented before all combined classes - complement the primary focus of the session. Students are taught and drilled in the basic aspects of a trial work: Delivering opening statements and closing arguments; Making and meeting objections; Conducting direct and cross examinations of lay and expert witnesses; Offering and opposing exhibits; Impeaching witnesses; Preparing for pre-trial conferences; and Trying a case to verdict.

The Program

Following first year-end "appellate arguments" in Legal Research and Writing, students may pursue an introductory, advanced and specialized skills training curriculum designed to prepare them for litigation and courtroom work.

Beginning with our unique year-long intensive Integrated Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP) or free-standing Introductory Trial Advocacy course (ITA) - the building blocks courses - students are drilled in the fundamental skills of asking questions and making speeches. Successful completion of either ITAP or ITA qualifies students for four advanced trial advocacy classes (ATA), clinical advocacy placements, membership on the national trial team, related specialized coursework and participation as witnesses and jurors in graduate and professional programs geared toward experienced trial lawyers.

The Second Year Curriculum: Core Courses

The Integrated Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP)

The cornerstone of our program is the Integrated Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP) which offers a full year of trial advocacy. ITAP is a 2-semester, 4-course, 10-credit package. In the fall, students take Trial Ad I (2 credits) and Evidence (3 credits). In the spring, students take Trial Ad II (3 credits) and Civil Procedure II (2 credits). Students interested in the Trial Team are advised to take ITAP in their second year. Trial Ad I focuses on criminal trial advocacy; Trial Ad. II focuses on civil litigation and advocacy.

ITAP is a comprehensive course which integrates "substantive" instruction in Evidence and Civil Procedure II with skills-based training in trial advocacy. The program provides students with the practical context of trials and pre-trial litigation in which to apply the laws of evidence and civil procedure. Additionally, ethical and professionalism issues are raised in the spring semester during the motions practice phase--where they most often occur. The underlying premise of our integrated approach is that students can best understand and assimilate procedural and evidentiary rules by applying them in the self-reinforcing adversarial context for which they were formulated. For example, in the fall, while students are learning what a leading question is in Evidence, they are asking leading questions in Trial Ad. In the spring, after students learn the rules of deposition practice in Civ. Pro. II, they are deposing witnesses in Trial Ad. II.

Trial Advocacy courses teach students how to simplify policy considerations and doctrinal issues and present them as trial advocates. While theory drives practice, it is the practice of courtroom evidence and litigation procedure which commands the courses' emphasis. In Evidence, students assume the roles of examining attorneys to make and meet objections and articulate offers of proof. Our goal is to have our students not simply understand the basic principles of character evidence, but to competently conduct a direct and cross-examination of a character witness. In Civ. Pro.II, students master the discovery rules by actively participating in the discovery process, such as by arguing motions and taking depositions. Accordingly, the teaching materials are primarily trial transcripts and vignettes, full-case files and "hypothetical" problems.

Trial Ad. I.

In the Fall, Evidence and Trial Ad are integrated. In Trial Ad I students use criminal problems to perform a variety of trial skills in a mock trial settings. At the same time in Evidence they learn how to admit and exclude evidence at trial. Fifteen hours of evidence is frontloaded at the beginning of the semester to familiarize students with evidentiary concepts before they are asked to apply them in their Trial Ad I performance sessions. In Trial Ad. I students are taught how to make and meet objections and motions in limine, draft and deliver opening statements and closing speeches, examine and impeach lay witnesses and offer exhibits. The course culminates in a pretrial conference and a final criminal jury trial.

Trial Ad. II.

During the Spring semester, Civil Procedure II and Trial Advocacy are taught together. In Trial Ad II students work with an employment discrimination case file as they practice a variety of civil litigation skills in mock pretrial settings. At the same time Civ Pro II teaches them the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that are germane to what they are practicing in Trial Ad II. Six hours of Civ. Pro. II are frontloaded in the Spring so that students have a grounding in motions practice before they argue motions in Trial Ad II. This semester students use a full employment litigation file to argue discovery and substantive motions, take and defend a deposition, examine an expert regarding economic damages, and to mediate their case. The course culminates in a pretrial conference and a final criminal jury trial.

Intro to Trial Advocacy (ITA): Alternative Option

Students who do not take ITAP may take Evidence in the fall, ITA in the Spring. ITA is a one-semester, stand-alone introductory trial ad courses designed to provide students with the building blocks of trial practice. Evidence and Trial Advocacy (even Civ. Pro II) are taken separately, rather than part of an integrated package as is offered in ITAP. Evidence is a prerequisite for ITA.

ITA follows a format and curriculum similar to Trial Ad I. Using a criminal file, students are taught the basic aspects of a trial, including: case theory, objection strategy, opening statements, direct and cross examinations, admitting evidence, expert examinations, impeachment, and closing arguments. In ITA, students also have the opportunity to conduct direct and cross examinations of real narcotics experts from the Philadelphia Police Forensic Science Center, and in ITA students try a mock jury trial at the end of the semester for their final exam.

The Third Year Curriculum: Advanced Course Options

Advanced Trial Advocacy (ATA)

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.

The Use of Technology in the Advocacy Program

In ATA, students are taught how to adapt the latest technology to courtroom performance. Students learn to use TrialDirector Suite software to display, adjust, modify and revise exhibits, digitized transcripts and other evidence in examinations and in speeches.

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.

ATA: Technology

Digital technologies are changing courtroom advocacy in unprecedented ways, and Advanced Trial Advocacy: Technology teaches students how to use them effectively. In ATA: Technology, students learn to use litigation organization tools like Case Map and Time Map, to create presentations in power point to enhance advocacy in speeches, and to use trial presentation software like Trial Director and Sanctions to display documents and impeach witnesses during direct and cross examination. Students will be able to use technology to adapt to the unpredictability of trial, publishing exhibits and highlighting documents with technology on the fly as witness testimony changes. Finally, students will unleash mobile technology, using iPads to admit exhibits and impeach witnesses while moving around the courtroom untethered to the podium, working wirelessly.

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.

Clinical Courses

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;
  • 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.

See also: Clinical Program for more information.