Progressive in its emphasis on real-world legal experience, Baylor Law School's renowned Practice Court program can trace its roots to 1857 when the school's mission "to educate lawyers for the practice of law" was forged. Judge James Alexander brought Practice Court into the modern age in the 1920s and turned it into one of the most rigorous trial practice programs in the nation. The time-tested methods of the course provide students with experiences that simulate the full trial process and put them repeatedly in front of judge and jury. Today, the Practice Court program has been called by the Princeton Review "arguably the best training ground in the nation for practical lawyering."
Baylor's Practice Court Program is composed of four courses taught over two quarters: Practice Court I: Pre-Trial Practice and Procedure; Practice Court II: Trial Evidence, Procedure, and Practice; Practice Court III: Trial and Post-Trial Practice, Procedure, and Evidence; and Professional Responsibility. Through this 17-credit-hour program, students develop lawyering skills important to any type of practice, but essential to the trial lawyer.
Students hone these skills through intensive study and advocacy exercises of procedural and evidence law, experiencing each step of litigation in the process. They not only try mock cases, including giving opening statements, closing arguments, witness examination, and jury selection, but also do all of the pre-trial preparation, including filing petitions and answers, arguing motions, taking depositions, and using the discovery process to gather evidence. Lectures address the rules of evidence and procedure, but the instruction goes beyond just the rules and cases. Extensive class time is devoted to practical use of the rules, including the strategy and tactics of litigation.
Through this program, students not only practice procedures and skills they will need to use in the future, but also develop strategies for effectively and ethically using the law to competently represent clients.
Essential Lawyering Skills Developed in Practice Court:
Attention to detail
Precision in analysis and thought
Precision in expression and communication
Self-awareness – see and hear yourself as others see and hear you, whether they be clients, lawyers, jurors, or judges
Self-confidence and poise
The art of persuasion – how and why people think, feel, and act as they do; how decisions are made; consideration of human nature and what makes people "tick"
Understanding of the "realities" of modern law practice
Understanding of professional responsibilities and ethics, and responsibility to the client and court
Understanding of a healthy, professional, and ethical approach to the adversarial system
Organization, prioritizing of tasks, establishing discipline in the use of time, and the development of efficiency, achieved by imposing demands on the students' time
While one mission of the Practice Court program is to prepare students for litigation and trial practice, the program's broader mission is to prepare each student to be a competent, responsible, and ethical lawyer and human being, whether the student ever sees the inside of a courtroom or not. Students enrolled in the Practice Court program are introduced to the realities of modern law practice and the responsibilities of lawyers to clients, courts, and society. Moreover, through Practice Court especially, Baylor students develop an appreciation for attention to detail, for precision in analysis, thought, expression and communication. Indeed, these skills are invaluable to all students regardless of what field of legal practice the student chooses to enter. The thinking and communication skills and the familiarity with the litigation process developed in Practice Court are critically important to students planning careers in areas other than litigation, such as business planning, real estate, and other non-litigation fields.