Over the years Suffolk Law School has graduated a very large number of young lawyers interested in a career in civil litigation. Many of our graduates are among the most successful trial lawyers in New England. They practice in large firms and in small offices, serve as in-house counsel, and handle all types of cases from corporate disputes to civil rights claims. Many have gone on to become highly respected judges.
One of the principal advantages of a litigation career is that it presents a rare opportunity in today's world to be a generalist. To handle your cases, in a short time you might have to master the intricacies of corporate finance, learn enough medicine to analyze the consequences of a traumatic brain injury, and become acquainted with enough physics to understand accident reconstruction. Your clients and their issues will provide you with a series of windows onto the world that most specialists will never have a chance to peer through.
The successful trial lawyer must have sufficient intellectual curiosity and a mind agile enough to move from one field to the next, as the demands of the cases require. A litigator must possess strong legal writing skills. But she must also have a strong affinity for other people, the sensitivity to understand their stories and their problems, the ability to communicate those stories to judges and jurors, and a desire to serve as her clients' champion in the courtroom. The life of a courtroom advocate is often highly stressful, but also exhilarating and rewarding. What should you do as a student to prepare for such a career?
Everyone anticipating a litigation career should take certain basic courses: Evidence, Appellate Practice, Pretrial Civil Litigation, an alternative dispute resolution or negotiation course and a trial practice seminar. Beyond that, Suffolk offers a wide variety of courses depending on your interests, including:
Depending on where you intend to practice, there are also special courses on practice and procedure for Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. A student may also want to take one or more of the upper level criminal law and practice courses, if she is considering the possibility of a career that includes civil and criminal litigation.
It is highly recommended that you participate in one of the clinics, or participate in an externship in a litigation-related placement. The clinics provide an invaluable opportunity to learn hands-on legal skills working directly with clients under the supervision of experienced clinical professors.
Finally, Suffolk provides an abundance of opportunities, through the Moot Court Board and otherwise, to participate in mock trial competitions and appellate advocacy competitions, either as an individual or as a member of a team. Any student planning on a career in litigation should take ample advantage of these extracurricular activities.