Saturday, September 5, 2020


Can you learn pretrial advocacy online? The answer is “Yes, Oh, Yes—you can.” Before the pandemic, I began taking a course at Seattle University’s Center for Digital Learning and Innovation (CDLI). I decided to take the classes because Seattle University Law School, where I teach Pretrial and Trial Advocacy, Essential Lawyering Skills and Visual Litigation and Today’s Technology, decided that, due to declining enrollment in its part-time students’ night classes, it would drop those classes and instead try something new—offer courses online to part-time students.

Originally, I was planning to teach a Visual Litigation course online during the Summer of 2020, which I did (it was so popular that it had two sections). But, one thing led to another, and now I’m teaching a Fall 2020 Pretrial Advocacy course online as well. When we entered into virus isolation half-way through the Spring semester, I had to convert my Pretrial course into an online one for the remainder of the semester.

The Comprehensive Pretrial Advocacy course is perfectly suited for this approach. Here’s a description of what the course entails, and you can see why it should prove to be a great way for law students to learn pretrial advocacy.
Using mock criminal and civil cases as a context, students develop patterns of thought and skills for the real-work practice of law. Activities will include, among others: case theory and theme development; forging an attorney-client relationship;  interviewing, counseling, negotiation, oral advocacy, and drafting of pleadings, discovery, and motions. Problem solving, decision making, and the professional role of the lawyer are emphasized. Alternatives to trial, such as mediation, are explored. Pretrial Advocacy allows a high level of student participation in discussion and role-play.
This course uses Pretrial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis, and Strategies as a text and concentrates upon pretrial advocacy in the context of both civil (Summers v. Hard) and criminal (State v. Hard) litigation. At the successful conclusion of this course, students will have acquired the skills that are essential to effective pretrial advocacy, including, among others, how to do the following:
1.    formulate a case theory and theme;
2.    forge an attorney-client relationship;
3.    interview and counsel a client;
4.    interview witnesses;
5.    develop and manage a case;
6.    visit the scene;
7.    negotiate;
8.    engage in alternative dispute resolution;
9.    take and defend depositions;
10. engage in discovery;
11. argue a motion; and
12. draft these legal documents: a complaint; an answer; interrogatories; requests for production; requests for admissions and either a motion or response to a motion.
In the next article, we can take a look at the projects, discussions and presentations that make up the online Comprehensive Pretrial Advocacy course.

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