University of Pittsburgh

Civil Litigation Certificate Program - Frequently Asked Questions

Should I consider enrolling in the Civil Litigation Certificate Program?

If you have a strong interest in becoming a trial attorney and want “hands on” opportunities to begin developing the needed practical lawyering skills necessary, you should consider enrolling in the certificate program.  Many of the certificate courses utilize “active learning” techniques, requiring students to “role play” in a variety of real world litigation.  These scenarios are designed to assist students to develop the specific lawyering skills needed to be a successful trial attorney.

When Do I enroll?

Generally you enroll at the end of your first year when you enroll for your Fall second year classes (no later than the first week of your second year).  At the Program Director’s discretion, a student may be permitted to register for the program after your third semester of law school if there is a reasonable likelihood that you will be able to complete the program requirements in a timely manner.

How Do I enroll?

To enroll: Students must register for the Certificate on-line as part of course registration during the Spring semester of their first year (prior to starting their second year).  Registration is accomplished by completing the on-line Certificate enrollment form. Students already enrolled in the Certificate Program must submit an online notice of continued participation no later than the first week of their third year.           

How many of the 88 credits required for graduation will be used by the Certificate’s program requirements?

The Certificate’s program requirements total 23 credits (core courses- 8 credits; specialized skills classes - 8 credits; clinics - 4 credits; Murray S Love- 1 credit; Writing requirement- 2 credits) .  The requirements can be found on the Certificate’s webpage.

Is there a specific sequence I must take courses in?

While there is no required sequence in which to take the Certificate courses, it is strongly recommended that you take Evidence in the Fall semester of your second year.  Evidence acts as a  “gateway” course to the more advanced trial skills courses. Additionally, some of the small skills classes are limited to third year students, so you might want to take several other “core” courses your second year.

What Clinics/practica satisfy the course requirements?

The following clinics/practica can always be counted toward the 4 credit clinics/practicum requirement: Elder Law Clinic, Immigration Clinic, Family Law Clinic, Taxpayer Clinic, Environmental Law Clinic, Legal Services Practicum, Lawyering III:Clinic, Unemployment Compensation Practicum, Securities Arbitration Clinic , Low Income Taxpayer Clinic and Criminal Prosecution Practicum. (Please note: the Criminal Defense Practicum does not satisfy the requirements).  Not all of these clinics are offered for 4 or more credits; you may have to take a combination of these clinics to earn 4 credits) Read the course descriptions carefully!  If you are interested in other clinics or practica, or want to know if your Semester in D.C. placement will count towards this requirement, please contact the certificate director.

What is the Court Observation requirement?

In partnership with the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County, each spring semester the program will offer several structured opportunities for students to observe various court proceedings in state court.  Experienced trial attorneys will act as guides for the students.  During each semester, the Certificate Director will announce the dates and sign-up procedure via the E-Docket and email. Priority will be given to third year students in signing up for the observation. However, if space permits, second year students will be allowed to attend on a first come first served basis.

How do I fulfill the Certificate’s writing requirement?

The certificate program’s writing requirement can be fulfilled through almost any seminar or independent study. The topic of the paper must address an “unresolved litigation related issue” (ie a topic that relates to the litigation process- in contrast to a substantive right that is being litigated).   After deciding on a topic with the seminar or independent study’s faculty, you must also receive approval of the topic from the certificate director.  The paper must satisfy the Law School’s Upper Level Writing Requirements detailed in the Student Handbook relating to papers for 2 credits.

What litigation simulation/practice courses must I take?

The certificate’s trial advocacy requirement can be satisfied in two ways:  through any of the school’s trial advocacy classes or through the Mock Trial Strategy and Practice seminar (open only to students on the Interscholastic Mock Trial Team).  The mock trial requirement can be satisfied through participation in the Murray S Love competition or participation on the Interscholastic Mock Trial Team (with seminar).

How will I know whether I am on track or have fulfilled the certificate’s requirements?

It is the responsibility of each student to track his/her progress towards meeting the certificate requirements.  As a courtesy, the certificate director will maintain a program checklist for each student and each student will be asked to update the checklist periodically.


Revised 09/28/2011 | Copyright 2011 | Site by UMC