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Elon Law students engage in trial practice in the Robert E Long Courtroom of the law schoolThe goal of the Trial Practice 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 Trial Practice 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 Trial Practice 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 Trial Practice 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 included:

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 and Director of Skills Program. 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. She teaches and writes in the area of Federal Civil Procedure and is co-author of the text Skills and Values: Civil Procedure published by Lexis. She has authored articles on procedural doctrine and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. She regularly contributes the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure update to the American Association of Law Schools Civil Procedure Section Newsletter. Prof. Dunham teaches Civil Procedure to first year students at Elon Law and Advanced Civil Procedure to upper-level students at Elon Law.