1. What is Civil Litigation?
Civil litigation is a lawsuit between two or more people or entities that does not seek criminal sanctions. It is distinguishable from criminal litigation, wherein a government agency, such as the State of California, seeks to convict an individual of a criminal charge. The remedy sought in civil litigation is usually money or a judgment that requires one party to do something or to stop doing something. Civil litigation encompasses many different kinds of cases, such as landlord/tenant cases, accident cases, breach of contract cases, discrimination cases, business disputes, medical malpractice, etc.
2. Where is it practiced?
Public Sector: Government (Federal, State, County, City), Non-profit (Direct Legal Services, Impact Litigation)
Private Sector: Corporations, Large Law Firms, Medium and Small Law Firms, Solo Practitioners
3. What Courses and Academic Experiences would be helpful?
- KGACLC Civil Clinical Skills I
- Pretrial Litigation Techniques
- California Civil Procedure
- Federal Courts and Jurisdiction
- Advanced Legal Writing: Analysis
- Specific Substantive Courses (Employment, Immigration, Family Law, etc.)
- Interviewing and Counseling
- Intellectual Property Litigation
- Law Practice Management
- Advanced Legal Research
- Trial Techniques
- Advanced Trial Techniques
- Jury Law & Strategy
- Judicial Externship
- Honors Moot Court
- Law Review/Journal
- Northern California Innocence Project
4. What timeline should I be following?
There is no set timeline for entering the civil litigation field, but there are a few things to consider. Anything you can do to make yourself stand out in the application process is good. A volunteer internship during the summer following your first year will build your resume and may help you land a paid position the following summer. If you do not work in civil litigation over your first summer, definitely try to arrange a semester internship during your second year to build your resume and demonstrate your commitment to civil litigation. Employers look for candidates with courtroom experience (Trial Techniques and Moot Court), strong writing skills (Moot Court, Law Review/Journal), and excellent public speaking skills (Moot Court, FLY, leadership experiences, previous debate or public speaking experience).
- Why you are interested in civil litigation?
- What experience do you have with public speaking?
- What other experiences in your life have been influential and/or would help you connect with a jury?
- How can you contribute to our office?
- Why our office instead of [another county, state, federal, city, private practice, etc.]?
If you are interested in civil litigation work at firms, you can start researching potential employers as early as fall of your first year. Meet with LCS to discuss your careers goals and develop a job search strategy. Those interested in large firms may begin submitting their resumes and cover letters to firms in after December 1. Those interested in boutique or small firm work will want to target these employers starting January and through late spring as these employers are less likely to know their hiring needs ahead of time. Be sure to follow-up!
If you are interested in work with the government, you will want to consider the following information. Department of Justice internship applications are due the September prior to the summer during which the internship would take place. Applications for summer positions in some counties, such as Santa Clara, are often due several months in advance. A few counties have paid internships (between 2L and 3L year), for which they hire students during the Public Interest Career Fair in the fall and Public Interest/Public Sector Day in the spring. If you are willing to travel to a less populated county for the summer, it may be easier to get at least a volunteer position at the last minute. Semester internships are normally less competitive and can be done for credit at many local county offices.
If you are interested in federal experience, the way almost all new U.S. Attorneys are hired is through the Attorney Generals Honors Program. Very few city, county or state governmental agencies will extend job offers before bar results are received, so keep this in mind if you dont like the idea of waiting more than a year after many of your peers working for firms have received their job offers to find out about employment. Most hire using civil services guidelines as well, so connections and good internships do not automatically translate into a job offer.
5. What Professional Organizations and Associations can I join to meet people and find out more?
- American Trial Lawyers Association
- American Civil Liberties Union
- American Constitution Society
- National Lawyers Guild
- Equal Justice Society
- Specific Sections of the State Bar of California
- Specific Sections of the American Bar Association
- Many professional organizations are on Linkedin:
- Southern California Trial Lawyers
- Young and/or New Litigation Attorneys in California
- ABA Section of Litigation
- ABA Young Lawyers Division
- American Bar Association’s General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division
- American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section
- DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar
- Trial Lawyer Network for Lawyers and Attorneys
6. What additional resources should I check out for further information?
- Santa Clara County Job Page
- Northern California U.S. Attorneys Office
- Department of Justice Summer Law Intern Program
- Attorney Generals Internship Program
- Various City Attorneys offices
7. Which faculty members at SCU have worked in Civil Litigation?
- Beth Van Schaack
- Margalynne Armstrong
- Margaret Russell
- Angelo Ancheta
- Marina Hsieh
- Cynthia Mertens
- Mack Player
- David Sloss