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Practice Court

Practice Court

INTRODUCTION


Welcome to the program ranked by the Princeton Review as “arguably the best training ground in the nation for practical lawyering.” The program regarded as “the Marine Corps Boot Camp of law schools.” The program recognized as one of the most rigorous, most demanding—yet most rewarding— law school experiences for the honing of real-world lawyering and leadership skills anywhere in America.

Welcome to Practice Court.

A common theme runs throughout Practice Court: As attorneys, we accept the calling to lead, counsel, and rescue our clients, with integrity and professionalism, and we can only meet that calling if we are prepared to go the distance under great pressure.

Practice Court is required of all Baylor Law students. Regardless of the area of litigation or transactional practice our graduates plan to pursue, we want them prepared to manage their time well under pressure, prepared to organize the details of complex undertakings, and ultimately prepared to command the room, whether it be the courtroom, the boardroom, or in the arena of public leadership. The intensity of Practice Court simultaneously helps students understand how much they still have to learn while delivering a hard-earned confidence that they can handle the journey.

The bedrock of Baylor Law’s nationally 3rd ranked trial advocacy program, Baylor’s renowned Practice Court program traces its roots back to 1857, when the school’s mission “to educate lawyers for the practice of law” was forged. In the 1920s, Judge James Alexander brought Practice Court into the modern age, turning it into one of the most rigorous trial practice programs in the nation—with students trying multiple cases from beginning to end. Today, Practice Court is required of every student. With its mix of civil, criminal and transactional cases, students emerge with the hands-on, real-world experiences that will serve them no matter what area of the law they pursue. Practice Court graduates know that—with true commitment and resilience—they have the capability to accomplish more for themselves and others than they previously ever thought they could.

The program is comprised of four courses taught over two quarters:

Practice Court I: Pre-Trial Practice & Procedure
Practice Court II: Trial Evidence, Procedure & Practice
Practice Court III: Trial and Post-Trial Practice, Procedure & Evidence
Professional Responsibility

Through this intense, two-term, six-month program, students develop and hone the skills, precision and confidence essential to becoming successful lawyers—from pre-trial preparation and jury selection, to opening statements and examination of witnesses, to evidence skills and final arguments—all within the high-pressure, high-stakes realities of modern legal practice.

And while every law school has some version of a practice court, none—repeat none—are like this one.


DIFFERENT BY DESIGN.


This is not a trial advocacy class. Nor is it an elective for interested overachievers. Baylor Law’s renowned Practice Court is an all-in, hands-on, total experience that separates itself from traditional law school programs because:

1. It’s required.

Every Baylor Law student, regardless of whether or not they are looking to enter practice as a trial lawyer, goes through Practice Court. Which means every student comes away with the foundation upon which to build a successful career in law, along with confidence and skills to represent their clients at the highest possible level.

2. It’s in-depth.

Honing those skills through a combination of intensive study and advocacy exercises, students develop a deeply rooted appreciation for attention to detail, precision in analysis and clear communications. This is not merely a collection of classes, but a wholly immersive experience that is as close as it gets to the practice of law.

3. It’s real-world.

To be able to assimilate information, articulate solutions and identify alternatives under real-world time constraints and difficult situations is an experience that places preparation and time-management skills in the context of a modern law practice. Here students don’t just study law, they live it.

4. It brings all of the components together.

In Practice Court, learning is magnified by doing. It’s here—standing before a judge and jury, facing off against opposing counsel, with all of the classroom instruction, advocacy exercises, mock trial and moot court competitions as preamble—where the rubber meets the road. This is where “practice-ready” earns its spurs.


FROM THEORY INTO PRACTICE.


In the first two years, students receive much of the traditional theory and courses prominent in other law schools, including how to think and reason like a lawyer. All of that is important, as it is foundational to the understanding of the law. In the third year, those foundational elements find meaning in classes that dive deep into evidence and procedure, and find application in hands-on experiences that thrust students into the rigors of a real-world modern law practice.

Becoming “Practice-Ready” is not just about knowing how to write a motion. It’s taking the theory and grasping how it strategically plays out in the practice of law. As much of litigation is a chess game, lawyers are continually moving pieces. A good lawyer can see many moves ahead, using evidence and procedure to calculate the next move—and the next, and the next—until the case is often won before the first pawn has been moved.


THE JOURNEY BEGINS.


Students spend their mornings in class focused on the law of trial evidence and procedure, and their afternoons in advocacy exercises. The advocacy training begins with opening statements, then moves to direct and cross-examinations. Then students put it all together, as each stands and conducts a jury trial from opening statement all the way through closing argument and verdict.

A second trial adds in experts. Students then go on to handle an evidentiary hearing in a third case in front of a judge without a jury. At the same time, they’re writing motions and responses to briefs that are woven into the very cases they are trying.

They’re also taking in the experience from all three sides, serving not only as an attorney, but also on various days as the trial judge ruling on objections or as a juror evaluating the evidence, because those additional perspectives round out the educational experience, all under the continuous supervision of a PC advocacy professor.


THE EXPERIENCE BUILDS.


The first three cases are only the start. Students next begin building a case completely from scratch, learning to develop a case theory and pleadings from a collection of facts, then conducting the expert interviews and witness depositions and written discovery necessary to prepare the case for trial. Motion hearings, jury selection, and ultimately trial of the case – to an outside panel of real jurors – follow, all under the observation of Practice Court professors, legal writing professors, and Baylor’s Jaworski Fellows (selected trial lawyers and judges from among the best in the nation).

For this final “big trial” case, students have the opportunity to request a case that matches the student’s transactional or advocacy Professional Track, in order to tie Practice Court and the Professional Track together into the complete Baylor Law experience.

Trying multiple cases, students learn how to investigate, interview, organize, think critically and pragmatically about complex situations, and ultimately, how to command the courtroom to confidently advocate on behalf of a client.

The true scope of the experience extends well beyond the courtroom, preparing students to represent clients in the difficult negotiations of complex transactional practices, and in cases that often move between the courtroom and the boardroom. By design, from the first day of Baylor Law, all of the classes, all of the exercises, are all integrated—each building upon one another—culminating in Practice Court.


A WHOLE OTHER LEVEL.


If getting to Practice Court is challenging, getting through it is another story.

In addition to trying cases and managing all of the twists and turns of a high-intensity law practice, students in Practice Court confront a whole other series of demands. The ability to think on one’s feet, solve complex problems on the fly and continue to rise to the occasion, even when faced with defeat—are all tested.

Because it is a simulation, the experience is customized and calibrated so that students face a breadth and depth of challenges that far exceed those of a traditional clinic. Along the way, they learn to balance dedication to their client and the need for preparation—with sleep, faith, family and life.

This is not just about law school, it’s about time management. It’s about perseverance, grit, determination and resilience. It’s about not cratering under pressure, and not compromising one’s ideals for the sake of expediency—qualities that are critical to a lawyer whose performance can make a difference in the life or livelihood of a client.

It’s why students who walk across the stage at graduation carry a unique combination of commitment and confidence, having endured perhaps the most demanding of all law school experiences. They know they earned it. And they have.


QUOTES




“Baylor Law’s Practice Court was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. But it gave me the knowledge, the skill, the work ethic, and the self-confidence to try cases anywhere in the country.”

—Steve Harrison
Harrison Davis Steakley Morrison, P.C.
Former President, Texas Trial Lawyers Association





A TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE.



By the end of Practice Court, students have not only transformed their analytical skills, strategic thinking and methods of persuasive delivery (all essential to quality lawyering), but they are far more than what they were six months earlier. They are truly ready to step out as lawyers. Having come through the fire, they begin their careers with a unique combination of:

1. Self-confidence.

Through the depth of the experience, most students find they can do things they never thought they could do. Having been tested in the premier Practice Court in the nation, they emerge honed and ready, steeled for whatever the situation they are presented.

2. Poise.

To stand comfortably before a judge, address a jury, examine a witness, and argue successfully in a court of law under the pressures that accompany a critical case, requires having been there, and having done that. Baylor Lawyers not only know what to expect when they walk into court on behalf of their first clients, they also know how to present themselves as seasoned attorneys.

3. Precision.

Through Practice Court, skills like precision in analysis and thought, precision in expression and communication, and precision in attention to detail are skills deeply learned. As a result, Baylor students find themselves significantly ahead of their peers, not only in what they can do, but what they can do well.

4. Perspective.

Having “lived through” the realities of modern law practice, students come away with a unique understanding of not only the responsibilities and ethics that define and elevate the profession, but the personal, spiritual and family life balance that contributes to long-term success.

5. Marketable skills.

There’s a reason why law firms from all over the country look to recruit Baylor Lawyers. They know they’re hiring a young attorney who is ready to hit the ground running. And whether their career path leans toward litigation or to transactional law, they have the depth and breadth of foundational lawyering skills important to any type of practice.

This is why it’s called the Marine Corps of Law Schools. It’s why students who want to be challenged to be the best in the nation come to Baylor Law. And why, for over 160 years, many of the best lawyers in the nation began their journeys right here.


QUOTES




“Without a doubt, Baylor’s Practice Court and Evidence classes prepared me for actual practice. At the conclusion of my first hearing as a lawyer, the District Court judge inquired as to whether I was a Baylor attorney. I proudly replied, ‘Yes Your Honor,’ and he stated he could tell.”

—Claudine Jackson
Brackett & Ellis, P.C.
2007 Texas Young Lawyer of the Year
Director, Tarrant County Bar Association


“Baylor Lawyers have always been known as great trial lawyers. The rigorous program is unmatched and it shows in the lawyers it produces.”

—Mark White
Former Governor of Texas
Former Attorney General of Texas