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.
First-year students at Southwestern have the unique opportunity to choose from an appellate, negotiation or trial practice track during their Legal Analysis, Writing and Skills (LAWS) course.
The Appellate Advocacy 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. 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
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
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.
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.
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.
Things to Consider When Choosing a LAWS Track Preference
All three LAWS tracks teach the basic skills you will need to be a successful attorney including client counseling, interviewing, standards of professional conduct, legal research, legal analysis, objective and persuasive legal writing, and effective oral communication. Accordingly, regardless of your career interests, any track would be an excellent choice. We have created choice in the LAWS curriculum not because you need to start selecting a specialty this early in your legal career, but simply to make the experience more exciting and interesting for you. The information below is designed to help you select a track that you will enjoy based on your personality, interests and goals.
Selecting a Track Based on the Reasons You Chose to Go to Law School
- I decided to go to law school because I want to be in a courtroom in front of a jury: choose trial practice.
- I decided to go to law school because I love to debate: choose appellate advocacy.
- I decided to go to law school because I am interested in learning more about the conceptual underpinnings of law: choose any track.
- I decided to go to law school because I believe it will help me pursue my interest in politics: choose any track.
- I decided to go to law school because I believe it will help me pursue a career in business: choose negotiation.
- I decided to go to law school because I like to solve mysteries and piece together evidence: choose trial practice.
- I decided to go to law school because it will offer me financial stability: choose any track.
- I am not sure why I decided to go to law school: choose any track.
Selecting a Track Based on Your Career Goals
- I think I want to be a courtroom lawyer trying cases before juries (e.g., prosecutor, criminal defense attorney): choose any track.
- Trial practice is geared toward arguing cases before juries, but this is only one skill required in courtroom careers.
- Courtroom careers also frequently require lawyers to argue legal issues to judges, and appellate advocacy is geared toward this second skill;
- Courtroom careers also frequently require lawyers to negotiate settlement deals, and negotiation is geared toward this third skill.
- I think I want to be a family lawyer, a children’s rights lawyer, an employment lawyer, a civil rights lawyer, a healthcare lawyer, an immigration lawyer or another type of lawyer who might handle cases before juries, judges or administrative agencies: choose any track.
- I think I want to be a patent lawyer: choose negotiation.
- I think I want to be an entertainment lawyer:
- If you do not yet know what kind of entertainment lawyer you want to be, choose any track.
- If you want to litigate cases involving copyright, licensing, trademark or other entertainment-related issues, choose appellate advocacy or trial practice.
- If you want to "make deals," choose negotiation.
- I think I want to be a businessperson: choose negotiation.
- I think I want to be a transactional attorney (i.e., an attorney who negotiates business deals): choose negotiation.
- I think I want to be a judge or work for a judge: choose appellate advocacy.
- I think I want to teach law: choose any track.
- I think I want to be a politician or work in the public sector but not as a lawyer: choose any track.
- I do not want to be a lawyer: choose any track.
Selecting a Track Based on Your Personality
- I love to talk: all three tracks involving public speaking. In negotiation, you will share your "air-time" with other participants whereas in the other two tracks, you will be speaking solo.
- I hate public speaking: all three tracks involving public speaking. In negotiation, you will share your "air-time" with other participants whereas in the other two tracks, you will be speaking solo.
- I love to debate: choose appellate advocacy.
- I love to solve disputes and keep the peace: choose negotiation.
- I love to tell stories: choose trial practice.
- I love to solve mysteries and piece together evidence: choose trial practice.
- I am a people person: all three tracks require good people skills.
The Advocacy Honors Program
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.