American College | By David N. Kitner
Each year thirty public interest and legal aid attorneys in Texas benefit from a litigation academy sponsored by the Texas Fellows of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Texas Access to Justice Commission. Held at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, Texas, dozens of attorneys around the state apply to the Commission to be selected as participants. The program's popularity is such that many more apply than can be accepted, especially as the Commission pays the participants' expenses during the week-long training.
These attorneys seek practical advocacy training they can use to better represent individuals and public interest groups who need competent courtroom advocates.
Over thirty Texas Fellows serve as faculty for the Academy each year. The Fellows typically participate for either one half or one full day. Approximately sixty different Texas Fellows have participated as faculty since the Academy began in 2006. In even-numbered years, there is a Trial Academy during which Fellows present lectures on various aspects of trial advocacy and conduct demonstrations on all aspects of a jury trial. The participants in the Trial Academy conduct exercises in which they have the opportunity to select a jury, present opening statements, examine fact and expert witnesses and make closing arguments. The Fellows critique the participants' exercises and provide valuable insights to enhance the participants' trial advocacy skills. In odd-numbered years there is a Pre-Trial Academy, during which Fellows present lectures and demonstrations on discovery, evidence, summary judgments and mediation. Participants in the Pre-Trial Academy conduct their own mock depositions, witness examinations at pre-trial hearings and a mock mediation, with the Fellows providing their feedback. Between preparation, class attendance and mock exercises, most participants put in at least as many hours as if they were at work.
The Texas State Committee of the American College of Trial Lawyers and former State Bar of Texas president and Texas Fellow James B. Sales played a significant role in the creation of the Academy. Texas Fellow Reagan M. Brown has been the course director of the Academy since 2010 and has given hundreds of hours to this project over the last five years. As any one of the many Texas Fellows who have served as faculty can attest, the Academy is a rewarding experience for the Fellows, the public interest and legal aid attorneys who attend and participate, and the clients these young lawyers represent in the courtroom.
If other Fellows are interested in conducting a similar venture in their jurisdiction, contact Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.