Practical Legal Skills Training
Practical Training for Essential Legal Skills
To become a great lawyer, students must practice the hands-on skills of lawyering. Whether it is making a winning argument before an appellate court, negotiating an agreement on a deal that is valuable to the client, or successfully trying a case before a jury, Seton Hall offers students the opportunities needed to excel.
Students receive training on essential legal skills during law school through the Legal Practice Curriculum. Required and elective classes use both simulated role plays and real-client representation to give students a chance to apply skills learned in class to unique lawyering situations. Each course is taught in a small section, allowing students the opportunity to practice their skills in every class and facilitating significant interaction with and feedback from faculty. Courses are taught by expert practitioner-professors, including federal judges, and attorneys from diverse practice areas with many years of experience.
The Legal Practice Curriculum is best thought of in two categories: simulation courses/activities and real-client courses/activities.
Required Legal Practice classes
Through the required courses students learn fundamental lawyering skills that cut across all areas of practice – legal analysis, writing, research, oral presentation, advocacy, and client communication skills.
Introduction to Lawyering – In this six credit 1L course students learn the fundamental skills used by lawyers across various practice areas and develop the habits of reflective, ethical, culturally competent, professional practice. The skills covered include legal analysis, legal research, legal writing, client interviewing and counseling, negotiation, and oral argument. Throughout the course students are required to step into the role of a lawyer and perform legal skills within complex simulations that reflect the challenges of real-world practice.
Appellate Advocacy – This two credit, 2L course is designed to build upon the legal research, analysis, and writing skills taught in the first year Lawyering course. Appellate Advocacy assists students in the refinement of their brief writing and oral argument skills in the context of appellate practice. To successfully complete Appellate Advocacy, each student must draft and submit a final brief, as well as participate in a final oral argument before a distinguished panel of legal practitioners.
Persuasion & Advocacy – In Persuasion & Advocacy students learn the art of persuasion. While the course uses the context of a courtroom, the skills developed are applicable across the spectrum of legal work, whether in corporate negotiations, zoning board presentations or trials or hearings. The exercises and simulations focus on the integration of storytelling and thematic development into the basic skills of direct examination, cross-examination, opening statements, and closing arguments.
Elective Legal Practice Classes
In the elective legal practice classes students have the opportunity to hone their practical skills under the supervision of expert practitioner-teachers. The small class size for these courses gives students the chance to practice their skills and receive feedback from their peers and the professor in each class session. The elective courses fall within two general areas: litigation skills, and conflict management skills.
In the advanced litigation skills courses, students learn the skills needed for pre-trial practice such as drafting discovery documents and pre-trial motions, and taking depositions. We also offer advanced trial skills classes where students can build upon the basic skills learned in Persuasion and Advocacy and practice trial skills at a more advanced level. Most of these courses are taught by federal judges who bring years of practical experience as well as their time on the bench to bear on teaching students best practices in litigation. Some examples of the elective litigation classes offered include:
- Advanced Civil Practice
- Advanced Criminal Practice
- Trial of a Civil Matter
- Trial of a Criminal Case
- and The Simulated Law Firm.
In the conflict management simulation courses professors use experiential learning techniques to teach students the fundamentals of resolving disputes outside of the courtroom. In light of the reality that more than 90% of cases are resolved without a jury trial, the skills taught in these courses are critical to every area of legal practice. These skills include negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Some examples of the conflict management classes offered include:
- Dispute Resolution Processes
- Advanced Negotiation Skills
- and Family Law Mediation.
In addition to the simulated conflict management courses, we also offer conflict management opportunities that involve working with real-clients. These are described below in the section on real client training.
Legal Practice Competitions
Seton Hall sponsors teams of students who perform at interscholastic competitions, competing against teams from other schools, and intra-school competitions which take place at Seton Hall Law among Seton Hall Law students. The competitions fall within the areas of appellate advocacy, mock trial, and international moot court. Participation in these competitions is an excellent way for students to develop their legal skills and learn how law is practiced. Below you will find a brief description and contact information for each competition.
Ronald J. Riccio First Year Moot Court Competition
The Ronald J. Riccio First Year Moot Court Competition is an intra-school competition open to all first year students and part-time second year students. Held during the spring semester, the competition provides students with a closed problem complete with facts and applicable case law from which all students argue in two preliminary rounds. The competition field is then decreased to the top 32 students, from which a head-to-head seeded competition takes place until the crowning of a champion.
Eligibility: Open to all 1Ls in good standing (weekday and weekend) and part-time second year students.
Contact: Professor Jodi Anne Hudson, [email protected]
Eugene Gressman Moot Court Competition
The Gressman Competition is an intra-school appellate advocacy competition offered each spring. 2L and 3L students who participate receive one credit. To earn the credit, each student must write a brief and argue at least one compulsory round. After the compulsory round, the top 32 students compete in single elimination rounds until one individual wins. The final argument is judged by members of the judiciary. United States Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Sandra Day O'Connor, U.S. Third Circuit Judges Maryanne Trump Barry and Michael Chagares, and New Jersey Supreme Court Justices Helen Hoens, Deborah Poritz, and Barry Albin are just a few of the many distinguished jurists who have judged the final night. Awards for the competition are given to the Finalists, Best Brief Author, and Best Oral Advocate. Finalists and Semi-Finalists in the Gressman Moot Court Competition may be invited to join the Interscholastic Moot Court Board.
Eligibility: Open to all 2Ls and 3Ls in good standing who have completed Appellate Advocacy or who are enrolled in the course during the semester of participation in the Gressman Competition.
Enrollment: Participants enroll in the course as part of the standard registration process for spring courses. The spring registration handbook will contain details on all competition deadlines.
Contact: Professor Jackie Pirone, [email protected]
Mock Trial Program/Competition
The Seton Hall Mock Trial Board (MTB) trains students to participate in interscholastic national mock trial competitions. Students learn how to conduct a trial including opening statements, direct and cross examinations, and closing arguments. As part of the selection process for the team, students will participate in an Opening Statement Competition during the fall semester. Once selected for the team, students are eligible to participate in one national trial competition per semester for one credit.
Eligibility: All 2L, 3L and 4L day, evening, and weekend students may try out for the MTB. Persuasion & Advocacy and Evidence are prerequisites for national mock trial competitions.
Contact: Professor Jamie Pukl-Werbel, [email protected]
Interscholastic Moot Court Competitions
The Interscholastic Moot Court Board at Seton Hall School of Law is an organization dedicated to competing in appellate moot court competitions throughout the country. The Board also manages the John J. Gibbons National Criminal Procedure Moot Court Competition.
Board members engage in competitions on various legal topics such as criminal law, family law, internet law, constitutional law, entertainment law, and civil rights. Each Board member competes in one competition per year, with a few students competing in one each semester depending on their success. The Board is an excellent way to improve both writing and oral advocacy skills.
Students interested in the Interscholastic Moot Court Board can obtain membership in several ways. First, finalists in the Gressman Moot Court Competition are invited to join the Interscholastic Moot Court Board and semifinalists may be invited. Students competing in the Ronald J. Riccio First-Year Moot Court Competition and finishing as Quarterfinalists or better may also be invited to join the Board.
Eligibility: Open to all law students in good standing who have completed at least one semester of law school.
Contact: Professor Jodi Anne Hudson, [email protected]
Jessup International Moot Court Competition
The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition is the world's largest moot court competition, with participants from over 500 law schools in more than 80 countries. The competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. Each team prepares oral and written pleadings arguing both the applicant and respondent positions of the case. The problem each year involves unresolved and cutting edge issues in international law. Selection for the team is through tryouts that are coordinated by the coaches.
Enrollment: Participation in the Jessup competition is coordinated by the Seton Hall Law School International Law Society.
Contact: Professor Amy G. Cuzzolino, [email protected]
Real Client Training
Seton Hall offers students multiple opportunities to develop their practical skills and gain hands-on experience by working in real lawyering contexts.
Externships provide an excellent opportunity to work alongside practicing attorneys and learn from direct work experience—while earning 2 academic credits. Externships are available with approved not-for-profit and government organizations, entertainment companies, and state and federal judges.
Pro Bono Opportunities
Students participating in Seton Hall Law’s Pro Bono Service Program gain exposure to on-the-ground lawyering and can make a difference in someone’s life starting as early as their first year. The program allows students to volunteer at a not-for-profit or government organization based on their area of interest in a diverse range of areas, including consumer rights, tenant advocacy, criminal justice, mental health, and youth programs.
Through the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) clinical program, upper-class students move from the classroom to the real-world as they represent clients and handle cases from start to finish. Each of the clinics focuses on a particular area of the law, but all share the commitment of promoting social justice by working on behalf of the underrepresented.
Students also have the opportunity to advocate for real clients in conflict management courses where they represent clients in mediations in federal court, or in claims before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”).
Persuasion and Advocacy is a prerequisite for the advanced litigation and clinical classes, and students who are interested in further developing their skills for legal practice should take Persuasion and Advocacy early enough in their law school career to allow room for these advanced courses.
To enroll in Advanced Civil Practice and Advanced Criminal Practice, students must also have completed an Evidence course. Advanced Civil Trial Practice is a prerequisite for Trial of a Civil Matter and Advanced Criminal Trial Practice is a prerequisite for Trial of a Criminal Case.
To enroll in clinical courses, students must first complete courses in Persuasion and Advocacy, Evidence, and Professional Responsibility.
Some legal practice courses are only offered once per year, while others may be offered only in alternating years. Thus, students should plan ahead for legal practice courses. In addition, other advanced legal practice courses may be added to the curriculum in future semesters.
Limitations on Number of Legal Practice Courses Counted Toward Graduation
No more than 15 credits of legal practice and self-directed work credits will be counted toward graduation. In addition to legal practice courses, this includes, externships, legal practice competitions, independent research, and clinics (non-classroom component only). Credits earned for Introduction to Lawyering, Appellate Advocacy, and Persuasion Advocacy are not counted toward the 15-credit limit. Students are permitted to take more than 15 credits of legal practice and self-directed work; however, only 15 of those credits will be applied toward the graduation requirements.
There are some limitations regarding related classes counting toward the graduation credit requirement. For example, students are not permitted to take both Advanced Civil Practice and Advanced Criminal Practice to meet the requirement. Where such limitations exist, they will be listed in the course descriptions.
To learn more about curriculum planning, please contact Professor Jamie Pukl-Werbel, [email protected]