Cogent Legal

My Day as a Torts Professor Teaching Real-World Litigation at Law School

I recently had the opportunity to do something quite fun. My torts professor from law school asked me to teach a class on “the real practice” of tort law. I got the opportunity to lecture, to show some examples of demonstrative evidence to prove a case, and to call on the unsuspecting students. This all stemmed in part from last year’s New York Times article  What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering. My great torts teacher, Larry Levine at Pacific McGeorge School of Law, had been wanting for some time to introduce a much more practical aspect of practicing law into his classroom. That article prompted our discussion, and I was happy to try and share what I can about practicing litigation.

Bringing real-world training to law school is a big topic facing the profession, especially now when jobs are scarce for debt-ridden law grads (see, for example, this Washington Post article from a week ago). Our profession traditionally has been adverse to teaching students how to do the types of things they will actually spend most of their time doing when they become lawyers, such as depositions, case evaluations, discovery, motions and other rather mundane but vital practices. Larry and I wanted to expose his students to more of the issues and tasks they may encounter in prosecuting or defending tort actions.

The class was studying res ipsa loquitur, standards of care and negligence per se. I wanted to show how to work up some of the cases from their book and tackle practical issues about how to evaluate the case, what to ask for in discovery and so forth. Additionally, I demonstrated the benefit of developing visual aids. As the graphics below illustrate, demonstratives significantly enhance the understanding and retention of information for a case presentation at mediation or trial.


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