In selecting courses, students interested in the practice of torts, business torts, products liability, or insurance law begin with a distinct advantage. Each is an important form of civil litigation, and the required first-year curriculum gives students a firm grounding in the fundamental components of civil litigation. By the end of the first year, students have the skills necessary to work in the litigation departments of law firms or corporations. Although work experience directly involving torts, business torts, products liability, or insurance law is obviously the most beneficial, any experience in civil litigation will help students develop the legal skills required by these practice areas.
The basic course on tort law, which is mandatory for all JD students, is open to LLM students by permission of the instructor. In addition to the basic course, the law school offers a number of other courses on tort law (listed under the subject area “Torts and Insurance”). The availability of these courses may vary from year to year, with the list below containing the advanced tort courses that have been offered over the past five years and are likely to be offered again. The practice of tort law is largely litigation oriented, and so a student who is interested in developing an expertise in tort law should also enroll in courses covering the important aspects of civil litigation. A number of these courses are listed below. Clinical experience is also valuable in this regard. Students interested in medical malpractice would also benefit from extensive study of the health care system.
Increasingly, cutting-edge issues in business torts (including defamation, privacy, fraud and misrepresentation) and products liability are the focus of civil litigation. The Advanced Torts classes either involve material not covered in the first-year class, such as privacy and the business torts, or cover such material (notably products liability) in a more comprehensive and wide-ranging manner. Students interested in business-related torts would also benefit from taking related courses such as Corporations, Securities Regulation, Business Crime, and Antitrust.
The subject area of tort law also includes insurance law because the defendant’s liability insurer often provides the legal defense in a tort case based on the rights and obligations it incurs under the insurance contract. The presence of an insurer in tort litigation introduces a variety of substantive, strategic, and ethical considerations that are covered by the basic course on insurance law.
Torts and Insurance Law
- Administrative Law vs. Tort: The Challenges of Modern Regulation Seminar (LW.11027)
- Advanced Torts: Products Liability (LW.11140)
- Business Torts: Defamation, Privacy, Products and Economic Harms (LW.11918)
- Constitutionally Required Remedies Seminar (LW.12733
- Insurance Law (LW.11770)
- Sex Discrimination Law (LW.12271)
- Sports Law (LW.10585)
Litigation Practice and Procedure
- Alternative Dispute Resolution (LW.11368)
- Civil Litigation (LW.11136)
- Class Actions Seminar (LW.12721)
- Complex Litigation (LW.10058)
- Conflict of Laws (LW.10701)
- Constitutional Litigation Seminar (LW.10202)
- Evidence (LW.11607)
- Federal Courts and the Federal System (LW.11722)
- International Arbitration (LW.11128)
- LOSC Seminar: Civil Litigation (LW.10553)
- Negotiation (LW.11642)
- Quantitative Methods Seminar (LW.10794)
- State Courts and Appellate Advocacy (LW.11869)
- Trial and Appellate Advocacy Seminar (LW.10059)
- Environmental Law Clinic (LW.11120)
- Government Civil Litigation Externships (LW.10253; LW.10554; LW.11701; LW.11895)
Legislative and Regulatory Process Clinic (LW.12230)
Mediation Clinic—Advanced Dispute System Design (LW.11031)
Regulatory Policy Clinic (LW.11029)
Antitrust and Regulatory Alternatives I, II (LW.11348; LW.11367)
Business Crime (LW.11144)
Economic Analysis of Law (LW.10853)
Environmental Law (LW.11149)
Health Law (LW.10797)
Information Privacy Law (LW.11019)
Mental Health Law Seminar (LW.11545)
Public Health Law and Social Justice Seminar (LW.12471)
Sex Discrimination Law (LW.12271)
Survey of Securities Regulation (LW.10322)
Summer Employment and Post-Graduate Options
Traditionally, three different types of jobs have enabled students to develop the professional skills required by the practice of tort or insurance law.
1. Summer Associate Position in a Law Firm
Most large law firms offer summer associate positions only to students who have completed at least two years of law school. These positions typically require students to rotate through various practice areas in the firm. A rotation with the group engaged in civil or commercial litigation is most directly relevant, although rotation with other litigation practices, like bankruptcy, will also be useful.
Summer employment after the first year of law school typically involves smaller law firms. Because the first year of law school involves instruction on the fundamental components of civil litigation, small firms often hire students to work in the litigation department. Unlike large firms, many small firms specialize in a few practice areas, including specialties within tort law like medical malpractice or products liability.
Listings of small firms that specialize in the areas of tort or insurance law can be derived from various sources, such as lists of the “top” firms or attorneys in specific areas in different localities. For example, if a top attorney in medical malpractice is at a small firm, that firm is likely to have a relatively extensive practice in the area.
These firms often have specific needs in mind when making the hiring decision, and so the student should be aware that the employment might largely center on particular cases. Experience in such a practice setting can provide a valuable comparison with the experience one subsequently gains after the second year of law school as a summer associate in a large law firm.
2. Summer Associate Position in the General Counsel's Office of a Corporation
The general counsel’s office in a corporation handles a wide range of legal matters for the corporation, including both transactional and litigation matters. Corporations with extensive litigation exposure, such as the products liability claims faced by large manufacturers, will often have lawyers who largely work on litigation matters within the general counsel’s office. The opportunity to work with these attorneys over the summer can provide students with insights into the litigation process that differ from those attainable from a position with a law firm.
The general counsel’s office in an insurance company will often be substantially involved in regulatory matters before the state insurance department. The drafting of insurance policies covering legal liabilities is handled by the Insurance Services Office, an independent organization offering its own set of employment opportunities.
3. Judicial Clerkships
Following graduation, students interested in litigation are strongly advised to seek employment as a judicial clerk. Traditionally, students would begin such a clerkship as their first full-time position following graduation, although that practice has been evolving. Many judges now hire law clerks who have spent a year or two as a litigation associate in a law firm. Prior litigation experience provides one with a useful perspective while clerking. Regardless of the time when one begins clerking, these full-time positions are for either one or two years and are available in both state and federal courts. The most prestigious clerkships usually involve positions with federal appellate judges, but students interested in tort or insurance law should also seriously consider clerkships with state judges, as the dockets of these judges often involve extensive exposure to tort and insurance cases (each of which is largely a matter of state law). In contrast to an appellate clerkship, a clerkship with a trial judge provides extensive exposure to motion practice, an experience that can be invaluable for the practice of tort or insurance law.
Prior to graduation, many students have obtained internship positions with judges either in the summer or during the academic year. These positions are often available to students following the first year of law school, and can be very similar to the full-time clerkships held by law school graduates. Although these internships do not substitute for a full-time clerkship, many students have found the experience to be quite valuable.
Further advice on any of these employment opportunities can be obtained from the Office of Career Services and the Clerkship Office at the Law School.