421.01 Pre-Trial Litigation

This practical skills course focuses on the path civil litigators must navigate prior to trial. It is becoming increasingly rare for cases to be decided by a jury.  Lawyers must instead learn to succeed during the pretrial process.  We will examine the key components of the civil pretrial litigation process, beginning with the filing of a law suit.  The class will be divided into law firms on the second week of class. You will work with co-counsel, representing a hypothetical client, for the entire semester.  Law firms will prepare and serve discovery and respond to discovery from opposing counsel. Students will prepare and argue a short discovery motion. The last four weeks of class focus on depositions, with each student taking and defending a deposition. This course will help students synthesize and more deeply understand the strategy and the practical application of civil procedure and evidence rules used in litigation advocacy. 

Topics  include:

  • Drafting pleadings and motions
  • Preparing and responding to discovery
  • Taking and defending depositions
  • Practicing becoming a more effective advocate in the current on-line environment facing all attorneys and courts.

The course grade is based on written and practical skills-based work product and class participation, as described in the syllabus.  There is not a final exam.

Fall 2020

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Practical exercises
In-class exercise
Class participation
Marilyn Forbes Phillips, Judge Robert Numbers
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW.421.01.F20
Email list: LAW.421.01.F20@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - LLM
Course Areas of Practice