Advocacy & Dispute Resolution

Advocacy and dispute resolution represent core functions of the legal profession. Whether within the traditional litigation system, through negotiation, or in alternative processes such as mediation and arbitration, competent lawyers must have the skills to protect their clients’ rights and help their clients achieve their objectives. Through courses, clinics, and competition teams, we train our students to advocate effectively while using the best method available for each type of dispute.

A. Clifford Edwards Advocacy Center

The School of Law has a long and distinguished tradition of producing outstanding trial lawyers, including legendary Montana attorney Clifford Edwards. Some of Edwards’ accolades and awards include:

  • Membership in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, an association of just 500 top lawyers in the United States
  • Membership in the American College of Trial Lawyers, which is limited to 1% of attorneys throughout America
  • Recipient of the Lawyer of the Year award from the Montana Trial Lawyers in 1996
  • Recognition by his peers in the trial bar as one of the Best Laywers in America since 1987
  • Selection by the American Association for Justice as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in America in 2007

Edwards' generosity through the A. Clifford Edwards Advocacy Center supports the School of Law’s programs in advocacy and dispute resolution, providing financial resources to fund student competition teams, bring top lawyers and academics to campus for lectures and conferences, and support the highly-regarded Advanced Trial Advocacy Course.

Over the years, the School of Law’s commitment to advocacy has been recognized in awards to the school and its students. The School of Law was the 1999 recipient of the Emil Gumpert Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy. Past winners of that award include Harvard, Yale, Northwestern and New York Universities, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The School’s competition teams have consistently excelled at the national level. The trial team won the National Championship in 1992 and has maintained its elite status in recent years, advancing to the National Championships in 2011, 2012, and 2013, in addition to numerous trips in previous years.

The moot court team is one of a handful around the country that have won the national championship more than once, most recently in 2000, and the team advanced to the national finals an unprecedented ten years in a row from 1999-2008. In recent years, the school's teams have won the region’s award for best brief seven times and the award for second-best brief six other times. In both 2000 and 2005, one of the briefs was judged one of the top two in the nation. The school's advocates have won the award for best oral advocate at the regional competition multiple times in the last decade.

In its 15 years of competing, the environmental law moot court team has advanced to the quarterfinal round six times, advanced to the final round twice (in 2015 and 2005) and won the overall best-oralist award in 2002. In each of these 15 years UM has received at least one best-oralist award in the three preliminary rounds. In 2014, the team wrote the second highest scoring brief in the competition, and in 2015 the team wrote the third highest scoring brief in the competition.

UM students excel in competitions outside the courtroom paradigm, as well. The negotiation team has advanced to the final round of regional competition 16 times. Five teams have participated in national competitions and one at international competition. The 1997 team ranked third in the nation and the 2002 team was second nationally.

For complete descriptions of the competition teams, visit the competition teams page.

Certificate Program

The Alternative Dispute Resolution Certificate Program is designed for law students who wish to acquire an in-depth knowledge of alternative dispute resolution and who are willing to commit the time and effort necessary to achieve a level of specialization in their legal education. The Certificate Program provides students the opportunity to graduate from law school with a credential recognizing their concentration and accomplishment in this field. Because we believe specialization in law school should not come at the expense of a well-rounded legal education, we require students in the Certificate Program to complete 95 hours compared to 90 credit hours for students outside the Certificate Program. In most cases, this additional credit load can be completed within the normal three academic years of law school.

Upon successful completion of the certificate program, the certificate is noted officially on the student's transcript.

If you wish to pursue a certificate program, you must notify the Associate Dean of the School of Law as soon as you decide to do so, but in no case later than the beginning of your second year of law school.

Program Requirements

  1. Earn a total of 95 credits (five credits more than required for the J.D.)
  2. Take the following courses:
    • Lawyering Fundamentals: Theory and Practice
    • Civil Procedure I & II
    • Evidence
    • Trial Practice
    • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  3. Take six credits from the following certificate elective courses:
    • Advanced Mediation
    • Negotiations
    • Natural Resources Dispute Resolution
    • Independent ADR Studies

      Students, in a small group setting or as an independent study, have taken advanced ADR studies in topics ranging from "advanced family dispute resolution," "arbitration," and "advanced mediation." Students may arrange to take ADR courses in topics of interest by arrangement with faculty for up to 3 credits (except Independent Study, which is limited to 2 credits).
  4. Take at least four credits from the following clinical and skills courses:
    • Mediation Clinic
    • Negotiation Team

      Only two credits of Negotiation Team may count towards satisfaction of the ADR Certificate Clinical and Skills Courses. All students who count 2 credits of Negotiation Team towards completion of the clinical and skills courses requirement must nevertheless complete a minimum of 4 clinical credits in order to earn a J.D.
  5. Successfully complete the advanced writing requirement in an area addressing an alternative dispute resolution topic. To qualify for an ADR Certificate, the Advanced Writing Requirement must incorporate a substantial ADR component. To assure that a Third-Year Writing Assignment satisfies this requirement, the student must receive approval of the proposal by the Associate Dean's designate. The Associate Dean's designate is to review the writing topic and the final writing of every certificate program student.