J.G. Civil Litigation Certificate Program

Are you drawn to the real life drama of the courtroom? Do you have dreams of becoming a trial attorney? If so, then the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (PittLaw) may just be the place for you. Through its unique John P. Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program, PittLaw can provide you with a unique curriculum devoted exclusively to training the trial lawyers of tomorrow.

During the first year of law school, all students take the same courses. Those students who wish to register for the Gismondi program, do so at the beginning of their second year of law school. During their second and third years, all students enrolled in the certificate program will take certain required foundational core courses, a clinic or practicum, as well as a number of specialized classes. The heart of the Gismondi program is a collection of specialized courses taught exclusively by a pre eminent group of practicing trial attorneys whose insight and experience offer an invaluable perspective in the classroom. Together with our core courses, these select courses provide a level and depth of litigation training unlike that available at most any other law school.

In each of these specialized skills courses, class size is kept small so as to enrich the learning experience. Students not only are taught legal rules and principles in a typical lecture format, but more importantly, they are assigned to "role play" in a variety of real world litigation scenarios, each designed to develop specific skills which are essential to successful trial work.

Students complete their training by taking a required litigation skills clinic or practicum selected from this group of options: Civil Practice Clinic (Health Law or Elder Law), Tax Clinic, Immigration Clinic,  Environmental Law Clinic,   Legal Services Practicum, Lawyering III Clinic, Unemployment Compensation Practicum, Criminal Prosecution Practicum or Family Law Clinic. In all of these clinics, students have the potential of representing real clients in actual court proceedings.

The students in the John P. Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program will complete their law school education having developed a set of skills which better prepares them to do courtroom work than traditional law school graduates, and that advantage, in turn, makes the Gismondi certificate students more attractive to law firms seeking to hire young and enthusiastic litigation associates.

If you have any questions about the program, please click on one of the tabs on the top of this page for more detailed information. If you still have questions, please contact Professor Martha Mannix, Director of John P. Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program

 

Core Courses Evidence (3 credits)
Trial Advocacy (2 credits) or Mock Trial Strategy and Practice (2 credits)
Federal Courts & Federal Litigation or Pennsylvania Practice (3 credits)
Clinic or Practicum (4 credits) Students must take a litigation skills clinic or practicum, or a combination thereof, approved by the Director of Civil Litigation Program for a minimum of four credits.
Required Specialized Skills Courses (two credits each)

Students must take four of these five courses. Only Advanced Torts may be taken during the second year.

  • Litigation Strategy & Planning
  • Expert Witness
  • Pre-Trial Practice: Pleadings and Discovery
  • Advanced Trial Evidence
  • Advanced Torts
Murray S. Love Trial Moot Court (1 credit) Students must participate in the Murray S. Love Trial Moot Court Program during their second or third year or the Interscholastic Mock Trial Team (enroll in the attendant seminar Mock Trial Strategy and Practice).
Program's Court Observation Students must participate in the Program's Court Observation. Students will spend a day organized by the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County observing court proceedings. Students will fulfill this requirement in their third year.  Students must sign up with the Program Director in order to participate on one of these dates.
Upper Level Writing Requirement (2 credits) Students may satisfy this requirement by taking any seminar or undertaking an independent study project if the paper they write is on an unresolved litigation related issue and the issue is approved by the Director of the Civil Litigation Certificate Program and the faculty member supervising the seminar or independent study project. The paper must comply also with applicable requirements of the professor and the Student Handbook relating to the Upper Level Writing Requirement.

The heart of the Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program is a selection of specialized courses taught exclusively by a pre-eminent group of practicing trial attorneys whose insight and experience offer an invaluable perspective in the classroom. In each of these courses, class size is kept small so as to enrich the learning experience. Students not only are taught legal rules and principles in a typical lecture format, but more importantly, they are assigned to "role play" in a variety of real world litigation scenarios, each designed to develop specific skills which are essential to successful trial work.For example, a student may be asked to conduct an initial interview with a client and then help their law firm decide whether to accept representation of the client; take a pre trial deposition of the crucial witness from the opposing side in the case; cross examine an expert witness; give a convincing closing argument to the jury at the end of a hotly contested trial; and much, much more. All of these exercises are done under the watchful eye of our team of experienced trial attorneys. With their supervision, guidance, and insight, students quickly gain greater self confidence and a richer appreciation for the many nuances of trial work. With the exception of the classes in Advanced Torts and Trial Advocacy, only third year students may enroll in these specialized classes. In courses indicated with an asterisk(*), Civil Litigation Certificate students receive priority in enrollment. In order to receive this priority in enrollment, certificate students must sign up with the Program Director at least two weeks prior to the Course Registration Period.

  • Trial Advocacy
  • Litigation Planning and Strategy*
  • Expert Witness*
  • Pre-Trial Practice: Pleading and Discovery*
  • Advanced Trial Evidence*
  • Advanced Torts

Enrollment in the Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program Certificate Programs takes place through the Registrar's Office, generally at the end of your first year when you register for your Fall second year classes. Certificate enrollment is accomplished by completing the on-line registration form no later than the end of the first week of your 2L year. Once enrolled, students in the certificate program must reaffirm their intention to continue in the program no later than the end of the first week of their 3L year, using the on-line Certificate Program Continuation form. At the Program Director's discretion, students 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. Please refer to the Registrar's Certificate Program Registration Information for additional information .

Please review the certificate requirements carefully before choosing to enroll in the certificate program and be aware of course pre-requisites for advanced courses. Because Evidence is a "gateway" course to many of the other certificate courses, we strongly advise you to enroll in Evidence in the Fall semester of your second year, so that you will have ample opportunity to complete the certificate requirements.

If, after enrollment, you decide not to complete the certificate requirements and want to disenroll from the Certificate Program, you must notify the Registrar in writing and provide the Program Director with a copy.

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, Health 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, Veterans' Practicum 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.

 

All of our prepared information about the Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program is on our website. However, if you have specific questions about the Civil Litigation Certificate program that are not answered on the website, please contact:

Professor Martha M. Mannix
Director, John P. Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program
University of Pittsburgh School of Law
210 South Bouquet St, Ste 5220
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(412) 648-1390
mmannix@pitt.edu