A law student's preparation for a career as an attorney begins with mastering the fundamental skills that are necessary tools for the successful lawyer of today. This is accomplished in a variety of courses that simulate practice in today's legal world of both traditional court room litigation as well as alternative dispute resolution.
The College of Law has designed a comprehensive approach to skills training that begins in the first year and continues throughout the second and third years of the curriculum. It employs the latest technology, both as teaching tools and as means of communication and persuasion with which the present day advocate must be familiar. It is also distinguished by the high degree of involvement of members of the full time faculty. This provides for the ultimate integration of the theoretical and practical aspects of a well-rounded legal education.
In the first year, students take two, full-year required courses, Basic Legal Research and Legal Writing and Advocacy. Recognizing that effective legal research and communication are the basic skills utilized every day by the successful practitioner, these courses address these skills at the beginning of law school. The two courses employ coordinated, real-life exercises.
In order to take full advantage of the skills and practice experience courses offered at the
College of Law, you need to pay attention to the proper sequence. An explanatory flowchart is
available here. Copies are also available.
The skills training courses fall into two main categories: classroom simulation courses,
taken in either the 2nd or 3rd year; and practice experiences, taken in the 3rd year, in which you
experience the hands on practice of law as an attorney representing real clients, clerk for a judge,
or act in the role of a mediator. The intended sequence is that you first learn how to represent a
client in the simulation courses, and you then obtain real world experience in the practice
experiences. (Note: the Appellate Defender Clinic can be taken 2nd or 3rd year).
If you wish to take maximum advantage of our practice skills offerings, I suggest you
take Professional Responsibility, Lawyering Skills, and Evidence during your second year. All
three courses are offered both fall and spring semesters, and all are prerequisites for other
courses, most notably the clinical courses and externships that make up the practice experiences.
The courses can be taken in any order, but some of us are of the belief that students are
better served if they take Lawyering Skills prior to Trial Advocacy. Lawyering Skills teaches
you the representation of a client from initial client interview to pre-trial settlement negotiation.
Trial Advocacy teaches you how to conduct a jury trial. Therefore, a preferred sequence would
have you take Lawyering Skills in your second year and Trial Advocacy in your third year. You
must take Evidence before Trial Advocacy. Evidence is offered both fall and spring semesters.
Lawyering Skills and Trial Advocacy have limited enrollments. Be sure to follow the
registration instructions provided by Dean Gaebler.
If you are interested in taking a clinic course or externship, you should consult the
website and/or flow chart for the required pre-requisites. You must complete an application for
the clinic courses and externships. Please note that the Domestic Abuse and Elder Law Clinics
will be offered both Fall and Spring semesters. Whether there will be a Mediation Clinic in the
Spring is yet to be determined.
If you have any questions, stop by my office, e-mail me at email@example.com or contact the
member of the faculty teaching the specific course, clinic or externship.
-Professor David Taylor, Director of Skills Training
Co-curricular competitions afford students opportunities to further sharpen their legal practice skills through participation in a variety of intramural, regional, and national student competitions.
Each year, many of our students compete internally in the Prize Moot Court Competition and the 2L Mock Trial Competition. Students who excelled in these competitions as well as in the various aspects of the skills training curriculum have the opportunity to compete in several external competitions, involving trial advocacy, client counseling, mediation, and negotiation through which they earn academic credit through Co-Curricular Competitions.
2L Prize Moot Court Competition
Each year, approximately half of the second year class participates in the College of Law’s Prize Moot Court Competition. Teams of two students research and write an appellate brief and participate in several rounds of oral arguments. The final argument is an annual highlight of the spring semester at the College of Law. Distinguished jurists and members of the legal community sit on the panel of judges for the final argument.
Members of the Moot Court Society participate in the formulation of the Prize Moot Court problem, the administration of the program, and the judging of arguments in other programs. Membership in the Moot Court Society is automatically conferred upon any eligible full-time student at the College of Law who registers and competes in the NIU Prize Moot Court Competition. The Moot Court Board is headed by a chief justice and a number of associate justices. Additional information about Moot Court, including current competitions and board members, can be found on the Moot Court Society pages.
External Appellate Advocacy Competitions
Students who have excelled in the Prize Moot Court Competition compete in several external appellate advocacy competitions during their third year. In recent years, teams from the College of Law have participated in the following competitions:
- International Moot Court Competition in Information Technology & Privacy Law
- Appellate Lawyers Association Competition
- Chicago Bar Association Moot Court Competition
- International Law Jessup Cup Competition
- National Latino Law Student Association National Moot Court Competition
- Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition
- ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition
2L Mock Trial Competition
The 2L Mock Trial Competition gives students their first opportunity at presenting a case in a courtroom. The skill that is most important to the trial attorney is the art of persuasion. Therefore, the emphasis of the competition is on putting facts together to present a persuasive case to a jury. The competition is intended to be an introduction to the real life trial practice that many of our students will experience as states attorneys, public defenders, etc.
The competition brings together students from all three classes. Second year students act as trial attorneys. First year students serve as witnesses and jurors. Third year students with trial advocacy experience act as judges for preliminary rounds.
External Trial Advocacy Competitions
During their third year, students can continue to refine their trial skills by competing in co-curricular trial advocacy competitions. Students experience an intense immersion in development of a theory of a case and preparation of the case for eventual presentation at trial. The competitions are an excellent opportunity to combine knowledge learned in Evidence with skills gained in Trial Advocacy in order to become a very effective trial lawyer.
The College of Law annually participated in the following competitions:
Interviewing clients, ascertaining their legal needs, and providing counseling, are among the most fundamental and important skills of the practicing attorney. These skills are strongly emphasized in the Lawyering Skills course. Students have an opportunity to further practice those skills in the ABA Client Counseling Competition, in which over 100 teams enter nationwide: http://www.abanet.org/lsd/competitions/clientcounseling/
Teams from the College of Law have twice reached the national finals, finishing as high as second in the nation. The College of Law also has hosted the national finals of the competition.
Representing clients in a mediation setting is an essential skill for lawyers. Students at the College of Law have the opportunity to learn this skill in Mediation, Theory & Practice and Alternative Dispute Resolution. The ABA Representation in Mediation Competition, in which law students role-play as advocates and clients in a mediation setting, gives students a further opportunity to refine the skills of client representation in mediation, as it measures how well students model appropriate preparation for and representation of a client in mediation as well as provides students a valuable opportunity to experience the mediation process.