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Trial Advocacy Certificate

Mastering your advocacy skills

The Trial Advocacy program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University offers Juris Doctor students the opportunity to develop the skills and experiences needed to effectively represent clients in litigation, including criminal prosecution, criminal defense, and civil litigation.

Students in the Trial Advocacy program focus on litigation-related courses, including core courses like evidence and advanced civil procedure; skills training classes like The Litigation Experience; and litigation-oriented electives; and highly specialized one-credit, six-week courses, such as Persuasive Speech, International Arbitration, and Litigation & Courtroom Technology.

Students also focus on building relationships with other students pursuing careers in trial advocacy and practicing trial lawyers and judges and engage in activities pertinent to trial advocacy. Trial Advocacy students may be eligible for specific awards and scholarships.

JD students apply for the Trial Advocacy Certificate during the semester before they graduate. The certificate represents to future employers and clients that a student has the knowledge and skills to succeed in litigation through a demonstrated interest in trial advocacy. If you are or may be interested in litigation, participating in the trial advocacy program and attaining the Trial Advocacy Certificate is the path forward.

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Coursework and eligibility

To earn the Trial Advocacy Certificate, you must take classes in courtroom practice and procedure and alternative dispute resolution. You must also participate in experiential learning, either through simulation-based instruction in litigation and courtroom advocacy or by representing clients in a clinical setting, and gain additional practical experience through pro bono service, participation in a Moot Court competition, or enrollment in a Rule 39 externship. 

Among the core courses in the Trial Advocacy Certificate program is The Litigation Experience (LAW 780), a unique, four-credit course that covers a hypothetical civil case from the initial meeting with the client through the trial of the lawsuit. The course is centered on simulation exercises that address all aspects of litigation, including interviewing, motion practice, discovery, alternative dispute resolution, and trial. Students are divided into groups of eight, with four assigned as the plaintiff’s counsel and four as the defendant’s counsel. Two experienced trial lawyers from the community serve as mentors for the students in each section. Each week includes a 90-minute lecture on a specific issue (examples include Rule 12 motions, expert depositions, and opening statements) and a related 2.5-hour participatory skills session. Near the end of the semester, each skills section conducts its own mock trial.

The current courses that qualify for the Trial Advocacy Certificate can be found here. (If you are a current JD student and believe a course not listed should be considered toward your certificate, please contact Michele M. Feeney at asutrialadvocacy@gmail.com)


Career opportunities

The Trial Advocacy Certificate at ASU Law provides students interested in careers in criminal prosecution, criminal defense, or civil litigation with a prescribed course of study to help prepare them for practice. Employers look for credentials showing that graduates have a demonstrated interest in trial advocacy and a solid foundation in the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the field. Students in the program will earn these credentials by focusing their upper-division study on classes and experiential learning that will help them become more effective advocates.

The Litigation Experience

This course is designed to be the core experience of the Trial Advocacy program, offering you the opportunity to serve as trial lawyers in either a criminal or civil simulated case. In this hands-on learning format, you will take a hypothetical lawsuit through all phases of litigation culminating in a mock trial. The fall semester offers a criminal case starting with the initial charging phase and working through discovery, pretrial motion practice, plea negotiations and jury trial. 

The spring semester offers a civil lawsuit starting with the client interview stage and working through pleading, disclosure, discovery, pretrial motion practice, alternative dispute resolution, and trial. 

The class is structured so that all groups meet each Monday for a 90-minute class, and each group of approximately eight students meets separately for a longer period on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday to participate in litigation skills exercises supervised by experienced trial lawyers from the community. The Monday lecture session focuses on litigation topics related to the performance exercises to be undertaken in the skills sections conducted later that same week. It offers an impactful hands-on opportunity to become a successful trial advocate.

An evidence course is a pre-requisite for the course. You can find it in the course catalog under Law-780.



Holloway Trial Advocacy Award

The Holloway Trial Advocacy Award is named for the late Paul W. Holloway, a noted trial attorney, and is funded, in part, by his former firm. The award is awarded (subject to continued funding) to a graduating student in the ASU Law Trial Advocacy program who has earned the Trial Advocacy Certificate and whose academic achievements and advocacy skills most reflect the program’s goals. The Holloway Trial Advocacy Award application period typically opens in the early spring.

Only students who are earning the Trial Advocacy Certificate are eligible for this award.

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