All first-year students at Southwestern are required to take a six-unit, year-long course entitled Legal Analysis, Writing, and Skills (LAWS). The course introduces students to key lawyering skills and helps prepare them for the real-world demands they will face as attorneys. During the Fall semester, LAWS I explores issues of professionalism, develops broad-based analytical, research and writing skills, and provides concentrated instruction in the basics of legal methods, legal reasoning and legal processes. In the Spring semester, LAWS II enables students to apply their new skills in a hands-on advocacy experience.
Southwestern students have the opportunity to choose from among three types of advocacy for their LAWS course: Appellate Advocacy; Negotiation; or Trial Practice. Click here for things to consider when choosing a LAWS track.
The Appellate Advocacy Track introduces students to advocacy as it is practiced in the courts of appeal.* In the process of handling an appeal of a hypothetical case, students meet with clients, conduct legal research, draft an appellate court brief, and present oral arguments before a panel of justices. Note: This is the type of advocacy traditionally included in most law school legal writing programs, and the majority of first-year students will be enrolled in this track.
*An appellate court (state or federal) hears appeals from judgments and rulings of trial courts or lower appeals courts.
The Negotiation Track teaches core lawyering skills in the context of negotiating contracts. Students meet with clients, conduct legal research, draft a trial court motion that involves a question of contract validity, and participate in contract negotiations.
The Trial Practice Track corresponds to the work of a trial attorney. Students handle a variety of tasks in the pretrial and trial stages of litigation in a hypothetical legal case. They meet with clients, conduct legal research, draft a trial court motion, examine witnesses, and present their case to a jury.
Please note: Although the descriptions and videos we have provided regarding the trial practice and negotiation tracks refer to representation in a "trial court" and the drafting of a "motion," the assignments in these tracks may not always be set in a trial court and may not always involve a motion. For example, assignments may involve adjudication before a quasi-judicial administrative agency rather than before a trial court. The setting of the assignment does not affect the skills taught in these tracks.
The Advocacy Honors Programs
Southwestern has three advocacy honors programs - Moot Court Honors Program, Negotiation Honors Program and Trial Advocacy Honors Program (TAHP) - which hold intramural competitions during the Spring semester. Each LAWS track feeds into its respective honors program intramural competition. Any student, regardless of LAWS track, may compete in the Negotiation or Trial Advocacy intramural competitions; however, students who wish to compete in the Moot Court Intramural Competition must select the Appellate Advocacy Track (those in the Negotiation or Trial Practice tracks will not be able to compete in the Moot Court Intramural Competition). Click here for more information on Intramural Competitions and Honors Program Selection.
Choosing a LAWS Track Preference
During registration, students indicate their order of preference for the three LAWS tracks. While the law school will attempt to place students in their first LAWS track choice whenever possible, assignment to one of the available sections will be made in a random order just prior to First-Year Orientation. Students who do not indicate a track choice will be assigned to a section by the law school.
Students will be notified about their respective LAWS section and the name of the professor for their section at Orientation. Once assignments are made, students will not be permitted to switch LAWS sections. Students remain with their assigned section faculty member throughout both LAWS I and LAWS II.
Click here for things to consider when choosing a LAWS track.
- Legal Analysis, Writing and Skills I
- Legal Analysis, Writing and Skills II - Appellate Advocacy
- Legal Analysis, Writing and Skills II - Negotiation
- Legal Analysis, Writing and Skills II - Trial Practice
Overview of the LAWS Course
- How is legal writing different from other writing and why do we need a year-long course on it?
- What will I learn in the Fall semester of LAWS?
- Will my choice of a LAWS track affect my Fall semester?
- How does my choice of a LAWS track affect my Spring semester?
The Appellate Advocacy Track
- What is an appeal?
- For what type of career will appellate advocacy prepare me?
- What will I do in the LAWS II Appellate Advocacy course?
The Negotiation Track
- Why should I choose the Negotiation Track?
- What will I do in the LAWS II Negotiation course?
- What skills will I learn in the Negotiation Track?