Trial Advocacy is a student-run, faculty-supervised program that provides opportunities for students to develop and refine skills used in the preparation and trial of civil and criminal cases. Students are "on their feet" during most class sessions, practicing the arts of voir dire, opening statement, direct and cross examination, introduction of exhibits, use of expert testimony, and closing argument. The course culminates with a full-scale trial, from the filing of pre-trial motions to the rendering of a jury verdict conducted by student co-counsel before a visiting Iowa judge and jury of lay people. Students receive extensive criticism on the effectiveness of their classroom and final performances, and all class sessions are videotaped for review and critiqued by instructors and fellow students. Trial advocacy classes are usually taught by adjunct professors, themselves practicing trial attorneys, and a board of third-year students provides administrative and critical aid. Demand for the class has grown to the point that, in addition to offerings during the academic semesters, an intense six-day version of the course has been developed for interim sessions, so that approximately 110 students may enroll in trial advocacy classes each year. Inclusion is determined by lottery.
The Stephenson Trial Advocacy Competition is a competitive version of the full trials that complete the semester and intersession trial advocacy courses. The competition, which began in 1984, is named after Judge Roy L. Stephenson, an esteemed judge of the United States District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and a 1940 graduate of the UI College of Law. A fund to provide for this competition was established by Judge Stephenson's former law clerks. A limited number of law students who have demonstrated superior ability in advocacy during the trial advocacy courses participate in a week-long series of mock trials judged by local members of the bench and bar. The final round of competition is judged by federal judges and Iowa Supreme Court justices. The competition, which takes place in October, culminates in a banquet where awards are presented to the winning participants and to the best litigator. Individuals selected from the competition represent Iowa at national trial competitions in the spring.