Overview of the Trial Techniques Program
Emory's Trial Techniques Program requires all second-year law students to take part in an intensive practice experience that simulates a lawyer's preparation for and participation in trial work.
Modeled after the National Institute for Trial Advocacy program, which is used to teach practicing lawyers, Emory's program is the largest in the country and is recognized as one of the Nation's finest. The American College of Trial Lawyers has twice conferred on Emory's program the Emil P. Gumpert Award for excellence in the teaching of trial advocacy. The program's teaching methodology focuses on integrating the second-year law student's knowledge of substantive evidence with practical trial skills through a "learn-by-doing" format. Trial experience is supplemented by textbook, lectures and discussions. Students must develop theories for particular witness examinations, decide on appropriate approaches to bring out the facts consistent with thier theories, prepare witnesses, and conduct direct and cross examinations using current courtroom technology in the use of exhibits.
The program consists of two sessions: The first program session consists of seven Friday afternoon workshops early in the Spring semester:
- Case Analysis;
- Direct and Cross Examination;
- Exhibit Drills;
- Jury Selection;and
- Technology in the Courtroom
These workshops are conducted at the law school and on location at nine Atlanta law firms, public law offices, and the law school. Students are equally distributed and assigned to one of the twelve workshop section placements, including the law school. The law firm and public law office workshops are conducted by experienced trial attorneys from the respective firms and offices at their off-campus locations. The on-campus section workshops are conducted by an adjunct faculty team comprised of experienced judges and trial attorneys from various courts and small to mid-sized law firms from within the metro Altanta area.
The second program session is located on-campus in May (for 2013, from Saturday, May 4 through Friday, May 10, 2013). Each year, sixty plus prominent trial lawyers and judges from across the United States come to Emory to serve as instructors for the May session. During these seven days, students attend intensive workshops that revisit direct and cross examination techniques and exhibit drill exercises, with an enhanced degree of complexity from the earlier Spring introductory workshops. In addition, the May session workshops address techniques in opening statements and closing arguments. Each student prepares several problems each day, demonstrates his or her skills each day, and is critiqued on each day's work by a faculty of prominent trial lawyers, judges, and teachers. Student performances are digitally recorded several times during the course of the session. These digital recordings are reviewed with the students by drama coaches, as well as by faculty. Ultimately, by the conclusion of the eight days, each student will try one case as a bench trial and a second case before a full jury.
Overall, the program is rigorous and will surely test the seriously minded student engaged in the pursuit of excellence. The program seeks to maximize every opportunity in the academic setting to present the student with the challenges and reality of the trial experience. The case files and materials to be used in the program are made accessible to the students as on-line materials, as opposed to being provided to students in hard copy book format, so as to simulate the virtual case management and information retrieval systems that the student will likely encounter in the "real" practice of law. Students will be responsible for downloading files and exhibits and organizing their case files in hard copy as well as electronic copy for workshop exercises and trials. Students will receive all of their communications via emails and it will be their professional responsibility to review the information and meet the deadlines set forth therein, as if they were receiving communications from a court administrator or senior partner. Students will encounter "real" practice frustrations during the program, ranging from last minute trial docket and courtroom changes, to an occasional technology failure during a trial presentation exercise. Students are expected to handle these frustrations with calm determination befitting their professional responsibility.