Elon Law students engage in trial practice in the Robert E Long Courtroom of the law schoolThe goal of the Litigation Skills Program at Elon Law is to actively engage students in learning experiences which develop their analytical and oral advocacy skills through simulation-based learning using the basic structure of criminal and civil trials.

Elon has developed an innovative and comprehensive Litigation Skills Program that enriches other advocacy and skills programs, including the first-year oral advocacy experience, moot court, mock trial, negotiation and mediation courses and programs, and legal clinics.

The Litigation Skills Program starts with the basic trial advocacy course, Trial Practice and Procedure (TPP), a study of the trial phase from the perspective of a practicing attorney. TPP is a three-hour course, meeting one day a week. Students are divided into classes of 10 to 12 students and each class is taught by two adjunct faculty members, each of whom have previous experience in teaching advocacy through the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and other advocacy organizations. In the TPP course, students first learn about and perform the various aspects of the trial of a lawsuit, including the development of a theory and theme, jury selection, opening statements, direct and cross examination of lay witnesses and experts, the use and introduction of demonstrative evidence, and closing arguments. Students are then required to prepare for and conduct a complete trial to verdict. Simulations are periodically videotaped and critiqued by a faculty member.

In addition to the basic TPP course, the Litigation Skills Program also offers elective courses, including Advanced Trial Practice & Procedure, Civil Pre-Trial Litigation, Criminal Pre-Trial Litigation, Depositions, Interviewing and Counseling, and Negotiations.

Elon Law professors who teach courses in the Trial Advocacy Program have significant professional experience in trial and appellate advocacy and they are highly accomplished advocacy scholars and teachers. They include:

Alan Woodlief, Senior Associate Dean for Admissions, Administration, Finance & Student Experience, Associate Professor of Law, and Director of Moot Court Programs. Dean Woodlief authors widely used treatises on damages, civil trial practice and appellate practice. An accomplished appellate advocate, he has represented clients before the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, as well as the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He has coached moot court teams for over 20 years and established Elon Law’s nationally recognized Moot Court Program in 2008. 

Peter Hoffman, Professor of Law. Professor Hoffman is one of the nation’s leading authorities on trial advocacy, depositions, and evidence. He serves as a Program Director for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) and is the recipient of the Robert Oliphant Service to NITA Award. He has delivered more than 450 Continuing Legal Education (CLE) presentations to date in 34 states and territories and in 14 countries.

Jim Exum Jr., Distinguished Professor of the Judicial Process. Professor Exum served on the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1975-1994, and was Chief Justice from 1986-1994. In 1996 he returned to the practice of law at Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP where he led the appellate practice group, supervising and assisting lawyers with appeals in state and federal courts. During his service with the Supreme Court, Exum wrote 402 opinions for the court and 208 concurring or dissenting opinions. As a lawyer, he has helped brief and argued more than 40 appeals in state and federal appellate courts.

Catherine Ross Dunham, Professor of Law. Professor Dunham is an expert in the law related to civil procedure and civil litigation, including complex civil litigation topics such as class actions and multi-district litigation, and regularly teaches courses in Civil Procedure, Evidence, and Trial Practice and Procedure. In addition, Prof. Dunham is an experienced litigator and trial attorney, having represented clients in trials in state and federal court.  Prof. Dunham has coached championship trial teams and served on a national champion mock trial team while a law school student.  In addition, Prof. Dunham is a regular faculty member for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, having served as a Program Director and Co-Director in NITA courtroom advocacy and deposition programs. 

Patricia Perkins, Assistant Professor of Law.  Professor Perkins began her teaching career at Elon Law in the Legal Method and Communication Program where she teaches first year law students the basic skills of written advocacy.  She also teaches Civil Procedure, Civil Pre-trial Litigation and Prisoner’s Rights.  Perkins previously practiced as a litigator with Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, in Greensboro, North Carolina. She has also represented, pro bono, death row inmates raising Eighth Amendment challenges to lethal injection in litigation before the United States Supreme Court.

In addition to these faculty members, Elon Law is fortunate to have practicing trial attorneys serving on the adjunct faculty teaching in the Litigation Skills Program.  The Litigation Skills Program adjunct faculty bring considerable litigation experience to Elon Law students in courses such as Trial Practice and Procedure, Civil Pre-trial Litigation, Criminal Pre-trial Litigation, and Depositions.

Adjunct faculty members include:

The Honorable James L. Gale, Chief Business Court Judge, North Carolina Business Court

Sandra Hairston, Assistant United States Attorney

Lisa Boggs, Assistant United States Attorney

Randall Galyon, Assistant United States Attorney

Eric Placke, Assistant Federal Public Defender

Terry Meinecke, Assistant United States Attorney

Neale Johnson, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP

Gary Beaver, Nexsen Pruet LLC