The BAI offers a wide spectrum of skills training courses and has provided advocacy training to an average of 210 students per semester since 1988. The courses are designed around Kolb's Learning Theory and are taught by some of the top members of Houston’s Bench and Bar. The BAI provides supervision and coaching for the Interscholastic Mock Trial and Moot Court teams, which have brought both national championships and national recognition to the Law Center. The BAI also maintains an extensive video library of lectures and presentations by renowned national and regional trial attorneys.
Advanced Level Courses
Advocacy Survey: 3 Credits
This unique course is designed to provide students the opportunity to experience
a wide spectrum of legal advocacy. Course segments include Pre-Trial Litigation,
Trial Advocacy, Appellate Advocacy, Negotiation, Mediation, and Arbitration.
Each course segment contains a brief overview of 1) the legal underpinnings
for each topic area and, 2) the skills necessary to be an effective advocate
in that topic area.
Appellate Advocacy: 3 Credits.
Advanced research, writing and oral advocacy are the goals of this course. Students have the opportunity to advance their research and writing skills under the tutelage of some of the finest appellate lawyers and judges in this state. This program has been instrumental in developing an interscholastic moot court program that has produced many national championship teams during the past six years. Additionally, many appellate judges have noticed the enhanced quality of law clerks that participated in the Appellate Advocacy Program.
Attorney Communication & Persuasion Techniques: 2 Credits.
Without question, communication is at the very heart of what we do as lawyers. Knowing how to establish rapport, ask the right questions and present compelling arguments is as important to the transactional lawyer as it is to the litigator. This course helps students become more effective, precise, clear, credible, and persuasive. The course teaches students about the psychological underpinnings of the communication process, how people process information and how to communicate more clearly, powerfully and persuasively.
The theoretical orientation of the content material is taken mostly from the science of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is a practical system that combines effective communications with human psychology. It is the leading edge of communication skills training throughout industry, among professions, and within education. NLP as applied to lawyering is best described in the textbook for the course: The Winning Edge: Effective Communication and Persuasion Techniques for Lawyers, Richard H. Lucas & K. Byron McCoy (Wiley Law Publications, 1993).
E Discovery: 3 Credits
The increased presence of technology in the workplace has also required significant changes in the way litigation, and specifically discovery, is handled. Adapting to these changes, litigants face an ever-changing arena referred to as electronic discovery, which can be a veritable treasure trove or minefield depending on the level of preparation taken by the client and the client’s counsel prior to the arrival of any legal dispute.
This course will outline the major issues and considerations for lawyers involved in the electronic discovery process and prepare the students to face these challenges in their practice.
Establishing and Proving Damages: 2 Credits
Producing evidence of sufficient quality to permit a jury to make a reasonable estimate of damages is one of the keys to business litigation. This course focuses on the practical aspects of establishing and proving economic damages.
During the course will look at the development of damages throughout the life of a case, from the client interview through arguing damages to the jury. The objectives of this course include helping students understand the basic forms of economic damage models and the keys to producing sufficient evidence to prove them. As the course progresses, the students will have the opportunity to look at the pretrial and trial phases of a case from the point of view of proving damages. Students will interview clients, selecting damage theories; prepare damage discovery; work with expert witnesses; use non-expert discovery in support of damages; plan and take expert depositions; challenge and defend expert testimony; and conduct direct and cross-examination of expert witnesses; and argue damages. By the end of the course, students should have a good understanding of the practical challenges of establishing and proving damages in a business case.
Legal Negotiation: 3 Credits.
The skill of negotiating is required in all areas and all phases of legal practice. The purpose of the negotiation seminar can be described in terms of providing participants with a theoretical framework and practical tools for resolving issues on favorable terms while maintaining or enhancing relationships. The objectives for the course are to help participants better understand the significance of process in negotiation, the importance of preparation in achieving objectives, and the value of adherence to fundamental principles; to provide participants with practical tools to prepare more effectively, to organize thinking to help make critical decisions, to adopt and implement effective negotiation strategies, and to learn from future negotiations; and to help participants improve negotiation skills.
Student Mediation Training
The course is designed to give individuals the skills and credentials they need to serve as mediators (third party neutrals) in the State of Texas. The training the students will receive will meet the statutory requirements for mediation training under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §154.052 (Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures Act of Texas), as well as the Texas Mediation Trainers Roundtable Standards for Mediation Training. Since the course satisfies the statutory requirements by complying with the minimum requirement of 40 hours of training, it will also allow the participants to be qualified to accept court referred cases.
Pre-trial Litigation: 3 Credits.
This course stresses pretrial rules and practice in civil cases. The objectives include educating students about what they will actually do as lawyers with an emphasis on strategy and methods. The course is taught experientially with an emphasis on thinking, writing, oral advocacy and judgment.
During this course, each student will be assigned to either a plaintiff's firm or a defense firm. The students will then take one civil matter up from the time of the underlying occurrence and prepare the case for trial. Students will interview their clients and reach contractual agreements for legal representation. Students will investigate the law and the facts of the matter, including the interview of potential witnesses and experts. Students will draft appropriate pleadings including at least the following: 1) Petition or Answer; 2) Interrogatories; 3) Request for Production; 4) Request for Admissions; 5) appropriate motions such as Plea in Abatement, Special Exceptions, Motion to Compel, Motion for Protective Order, Motion to Quash, and/or Motion for Sanctions; 6) Notices of Deposition; and 7) Dispositive Motions. Students will conduct depositions of fact and expert witnesses, and will argue for and/or against motions filed in the case. Students will prepare a client file and a trial notebook, both of which will be turned in at the end of the semester.
Seminar: Litigation in America: 2 Credits
This course covers topics of current interest in how legal disputes are resolved under our legal system. Possible topics to be covered are the “vanishing jury trial,” racial and gender bias in jury selection, jury nullification, reliability of expert testimony, discovery costs, e-discovery, ethical constraints on litigant behavior, the hearsay rule, and improving jury comprehension.
Trial Advocacy: 3 Credits. Prerequisite: Evidence*.
The trial advocacy course is the foundation of litigation training and is essential to the understanding of the legal process. During the course, students try both civil and criminal case filestrial advocacy courses because the substantive, evidentiary and procedural laws are different for each. Indeed, except for the desire to win, even strategy differs between criminal and civil cases.
In addition to refreshing and refining their knowledge of evidence and procedure, students are taught to think by formulating a case theory, theme and strategy; to communicate more effectively by designing and orally presenting opening statements, closing arguments, direct and cross of fact and expert witnesses, voir dire, evidentiary objections and responses, and all other aspects of actually trying a case before court and jury. The skills they learn are utilized in all phases of practice from client interviewing to appellate review. It has been said that graduates of this program are becoming increasingly sought after by law firms because they realize that this training advances them beyond the training of the usual beginning attorney.
*Evidence may also be taken concurrently with Trial Advocacy.
Advanced Level Courses
Advanced Appellate Advocacy: 2 Credits Prerequisite: Appellate Advocacy
This course goes beyond the normal brief writing and oral argument currently taught in the Appellate Advocacy class and truly qualifies as advanced appellate advocacy in the real world.
The class would focus on the not infrequently encountered situation where the briefing has already been done by non-appellate specialists before the appellate specialist is ever hired. In other words, the appellate specialist is hired to handle the case after the briefing is completed but before the oral argument is presented, so the appellate specialist could only present the oral argument and then maybe, if the opportunity arises, file a post-submission brief. The challenge is that in this situation the briefs drafted by the non-appellate specialist frequently do not present the best arguments or offer the best chance for the client to win on appeal.
Advanced Negotiations: 2 Credits
This course will focus on in-depth analysis, planning and practice of preferred systems and techniques for complex negotiations involving both hard and soft interests. The analytical skills to be emphasized are (1) Identification of Interests, (2) Analysis and improvement of each party's BATNA, (3) Development of options, and (4) Assurance of transparency, implementation and enforcement. Class size is limited to 12 students in order to assure the faculty/student ratio necessary for in-depth analysis and training.
Advanced Trial Advocacy: 3 Credits. Prerequisite: Trial Advocacy.
The focus of this course is on persuasion and methods for causing a judge or jury to view evidence from a litigant's perspective. Emphasis will be placed on developing a persuasive theory of the case, constructing opening statements and closing arguments to present the case theory, presenting expert testimony, and planning the presentation of evidence so as maximize its effectiveness.