|Career Development Office|
Dispute resolution plays a role in virtually every kind of legal practice. Lawyers of all kinds work with people in conflict and, consequently, must develop both the skills of dispute resolution and an understanding of the many processes available within the American legal system. Increasingly, lawyers need to have a basic familiarity with transnational dispute resolution, as well.
The two most common types of civil disputes litigated in American courts are commercial lawsuits and personal injury lawsuits. Many lawyers build careers in these areas, from representing plaintiffs who have suffered serious injuries to representing corporations in complex litigation to representing insurance companies facing liabilities of all kinds. The Civil Dispute Resolution pathway confers the skills and procedural knowledge that are essential for successful practice in those areas. But the relevance of this pathway extends far beyond those paradigm areas. The pathway encompasses tools that all lawyers engaged in dispute resolution need. The foundational elements of this pathway are thus applicable for lawyers entering a dispute resolution practice in any substantive discipline.
The trial is the focus of much popular culture about lawyers. Yet in reality, trials are rare in our legal system today—probably less than 5% of all lawsuits filed nationwide. Almost 70% of civil lawsuits are settled, and the remainder are typically resolved by non-trial adjudication. The cost, duration, and complexity of twentieth-century litigation have made trials an expensive last-resort. An increasing number of disputes are resolved through alternative processes, such as mediation and arbitration. Transnational commercial disputes are resolved overwhelmingly through negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.
As a result of this evolution, lawyers today need to study and master a range of processes. All lawyers should become proficient negotiators and should know when and how to use mediation and arbitration. Trial advocacy remains crucial, because the right to a jury trial ensures that trials remain the final option for the overwhelming majority of disputes. And pre-trial discovery, conducted with a view toward a potential trial, is often a pre-requisite to effective settlement. Trials thus “cast a shadow” over the rest of the dispute resolution landscape, giving them an importance that transcends their frequency. Appellate practice and the skills it requires are also particularly important for litigators in New York because of New York’s uniquely expansive right to appellate review.
Further, lawyers engaged in civil dispute resolution should have a solid understanding of both Federal and New York State courts, of how to untangle the conflicts of laws that permeate our multi-jurisdictional system, and of the administrative processes that government agencies resort to when citizen-government conflicts arise.
Beyond course work, St. John’s offers a range of practical opportunities to put the skills and knowledge of dispute resolution into practice. In this practice area, as in all, writing skills and legal acumen are essential, and so participation on a journal is strongly encouraged. Students on journals are encouraged to seek out paper topics addressing dispute resolution. Students interested in the Civil Litigation pathway should also strongly consider enrolling in a clinic or pursuing an externship providing exposure to the real world of civil litigation. Finally, students should seek out one or more co-curricular activities, such as the Dispute Resolution Society, the Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute, or Moot Court, in order to hone the skills required for professional success.
All are strongly recommended and should be taken early in the upper-level years.
Advanced coursework that will build your substantive knowledge in this pathway.
Coursework to hone your writing skills and develop a portfolio of practicing writing in your field.
Courses that will develop your oral advocacy, ADR, and other skills necessary for practice.
Students who participate in a clinic are exposed to a practice area through the representation of actual clients under faculty supervision. The following clinics are relevant to this pathway:
Externships place students in a wide variety of not-for-profit, government, public interest, and private organizations and firms, where they work directly under the supervision of a practicing attorney. The external placements are bolstered by an in-school seminar in which students analyze their practical experiences and gain skills necessary for the profession. Sample placements in this pathway include:
St. John’s boasts numerous scholarly journals and award-winning competition teams in ADR, trial advocacy, and appellate practice. The following organizations allow students to compete in these disciplines, while conferring academic credit for students who rise to leadership positions:
Students should seek out connections with practitioners and other students, both internally and externally. Adjunct professors can be an excellent resource both for guidance and for employment opportunities. The professional bar associations also welcome student participation and offer reduced membership rates for students. Some bar sections and committees look for students to provide research or other assistance on projects. St. John’s faculty are also an essential resource. Students should make an effort to get to know faculty who teach and have experience in their chosen areas. Finally, students should connect with other students who share similar interest through student organizations and attendance at Law School events.
- American Association for Justice (formerly ATLA)
- American Bar Association
- Asian American Bar Association of New York
- Brooklyn Bar Association
- Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association
- Nassau County Bar Association
- Nassau County Women’s Bar Association
- New Jersey State Bar Association
- New York City Bar
- New York County Lawyers’ Association
- New York State Trial Lawyers’ Association
- New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers
- New York Women’s Bar Association
- Westchester County Bar Association
- Commercial Division Online Law Report
- Entertainment, Arts, Sports Law Society
- Theodore Roosevelt American Inn of Court
Part-time students should spread out the suggested path below to account for their expected date of graduation.
* Students considering a career in New York civil litigation or dispute resolution in New York may wish to take New York Practice early in the 2L year.