In the 1990s, giants in the Tennessee legal community envisioned a law school curriculum that would better prepare law students for a career in advocacy and dispute resolution. These visionary founders—Donna R. Davis, Sidney W. Gilreath, T. Robert Hill, Thomas R. Prewitt Sr., Robert E. Pryor and family, John T. Milburn Rogers, Jerry H. Summers, and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC—saw an opportunity for UT Law, a school already recognized for its strong clinical educationprogram, to capitalize on the strong tradition of helping students to learn by doing.
Together, these leaders of the Tennessee legal profession, founded the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution to provide a specialized curricular concentration for interested students. Students who complete the concentration in advocacy and dispute resolution are recognized in a special ceremony during the spring of their third year of law school. In addition to the curricular role it plays, the Center also supports the College of Law’s moot court program, hosts lectures for students and continuing legal education programs for lawyers, judges, and sponsors multidisciplinary symposia on a range of issues of importance to lawyers and other professionals.
The center offers a unique curriculum with courses taught by experienced faculty utilizing the college’s state-of-the-art facilities. The curriculum focuses on the substantive and procedural aspects of adjudication and gives students the opportunity to practice lawyering skills in an experiential learning atmosphere. Courses include the traditional trial practice and advanced appellate advocacy as well as a host of more specialized offerings including interviewing and counseling, negotiations, and alternative dispute resolution. Courses focusing on trial and appellate advocacy benefit from the building’s four modern courtrooms, equipped with smart podiums and video display systems. The more specialized offerings, in which students engage in interviewing, counseling, negotiating, and mediating, are taught in small seminar rooms that feature video-capture systems. Students regularly record learning activities that their professors view in real time or use later to provide individual feedback to the student.
Those who teach in the advocacy and dispute resolution curriculum have a wide range of professional experiences. Among the full-time faculty are former attorneys in law firms in major U.S. cities, a former trial and appellate judge, and a former trial lawyer with the Department of Justice. The diversity of experience among the center faculty is further enhanced by adjunct faculty, including state and federal judges, private and public lawyers, and certified mediators.
The Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution sponsors and supports the College of Law’s moot court and mock trial program. Each year, the College of Law hosts three internal competitions and directs the College’s participation in numerous external competitions. The accomplishments of the students who participate in the program each spring at a banquet in which student members of the Order of Barristers are named.
The center annually awards two scholarships to deserving students. The Summers Rufolo & Rodgers Trial Advocacy Scholarship, established by the Chattanooga law firm of Summers Rufolo & Rodgers, is given to a student who has demonstrated excellence in advocacy courses and who intends to pursue a career in advocacy and dispute resolution as either a plaintiff’s or criminal defense lawyer.
The Woolf Scholarship, established by the Knoxville law firm of Woolf, McClane, Bright, Allen, and Carpenter, PLLC, honors Lou Woolf who retired from the firm in 2012. Woolf practiced law for 50 years and specialized in presenting complex issues to juries.
The center’s symposia are published in conjunction with the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy. The center publishes The Advocate newsletter featuring articles about the center’s events, faculty, and student activities. Read past issues on TRACE.