IIT Chicago-Kent trial advocacy courses are not to be considered "trade school" courses. While the courses prepare students for court appearances and other adversary proceedings before a trier of fact, they are more than a how-to course.
Chicago-Kent wants our students to think analytically, the way lawyers have to think in any situation. They decide what facts matter and how to present them. There is no blind-faith acceptance of things people say. They learn to weigh and evaluate, skills that will serve them well in any field of law. And they learn to communicate legal principles and information in a language real people understand.
Chicago-Kent trial advocacy courses stress the importance of preparation. Students learn the results they achieve will depend on the thought and work they invest. Lawyers need to know that.
We want students to understand the adversary system, that it assumes competent and principled advocacy. None of Chicago-Kent's advocacy instructors is content with a course that concerns itself solely with mechanics. At all times we watch for opportunity to make a point about the ethics of trial lawyering. We try to teach a respect for truth. We stress that facts cannot be created, they are presented. Truth cannot be changed, it can be enlivened. We do not tolerate lies or concealment. We do not object to harass or annoy. We stress those provisions of the disciplinary code that govern trial lawyers.
Chicago-Kent graduates, especially those who have taken our trial advocacy courses, leave law school able to try lawsuits. And they have the skills that will enable them to become good, if not excellent, trial lawyers.
Chicago-Kent offers three courses: Trial Advocacy I, Trial Advocacy II and Litigation Technology. In all three courses, students are trained to see evidentiary principles come alive. The traditional evidence courses do not train students to listen, analyze and react within seconds. We do.
We cover substantive and procedural law areas, especially in Trial Advocacy II and Litigation Technology. In those courses, one case file will cover contract principles, another tort law and another the principles of criminal law and procedure.
- Trial Advocacy I
- Trial Advocacy II
- Litigation Technology
- Intensive Trial Advocacy
The trial advocacy courses are taught entirely by adjunct faculty. Justice David A. Erickson, the director of the Trial Advocacy Program, has carefully selected the instructors. All of them are selected because of their experience as trial lawyers and as trial advocacy teachers. No one is hired unless Justice Erickson is convinced he or she can teach and try cases. They come from a cross-section of the legal community -- judges, prosecutors, public defenders and private practitioners.
Teaching Technique and Grading
Chicago-Kent's teaching technique is learn-by-doing. Students perform and everything they do is critiqued by the instructor. Almost always, the instructor will demonstrate the thing he or she is teaching. Each instructor does things a little differently, but all use the same materials book and text. The book is designed to teach evidentiary and substantive law, as well as trial techniques. Chicago-Kent's learn-by-doing and critique methods are designed to make evidentiary and substantive law principles come alive in a courtroom setting. We do not assign papers or give written final examinations. From time to time students will file written motions to suppress evidence or written motions in limine, but that is the extent of paper production. Little time is spent on lectures or self-congratulatory war stories. These are, in all respects, law courses.
For all Chicago-Kent trial advocacy courses, the final examination is the course itself. That is because we look to growth and progress when deciding grades. Evaluation is constant. Students are graded according to an instructor-subjective formula that combines effort, growth, skill, intelligence and character.
When each class ends, one of our goals is to ensure that each student has gained a respect for the fact-finding process and an understanding of the dynamics of the adversary system. Civility, professionalism, and duty to court and client are components of all Chicago-Kent trial advocacy courses.