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Professor Jules Epstein is the Edward D. Ohlbaum Professor of Law and Director of Advocacy Programs at Temple University Beasley School of Law. He teaches advocacy, criminal law, and evidence courses and is the co-author of an Evidence course book used at other law schools. He recently published Collective Wisdom: One Bit of Advice with NITA. Epstein also works with the Temple trial team students, teaching ‘advanced evidence’ and working with individual students on their evidence, analytical and advocacy skills. Professor Epstein is an advocate for assigning free and low-cost resources to students in his classes to lower the overall debt incurred while attending law school. Epstein recently spoke with Director of the Law Library Michelle Cosby about these efforts.
Tell us about the Integrated Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP) and what open access or free resources you use or assign to your students.
The ITAP program integrates the teaching of courtroom skills with two substantive topics – the Law of Evidence (Fall) and Civil Procedure II (Spring). For Evidence the free resources I provide are:
- A complete evidence textbook that I have authored and make available in chapters class by class across the semester.
- A free copy of the federal rules of evidence.
- A study guide that I authored.
- Evidence “decision trees” that I created.
- A mock case file that we use to test our understanding of the evidence rules by applying them to a case file.
Has your work in trial advocacy had a role in your decision to use these resources?
Yes it has. Based on trial experience, I can select the cases and examples that best illustrate the rules the students will rely on and how they are applied. As well, I know from litigation experience that a law school textbook has little or no utility once in practice, and what students need instead are the *statutory* Rules themselves.
What advice would you give to other faculty members looking to move away from traditional textbooks in their courses?
Unless the textbook you assign has exemplary materials for every point you teach, find the cases and other sources that do. Take a year to gather your materials and begin creating a document with case excerpts, hypotheticals, sample transcripts, etc. Once you have them in a Word doc or similar format, it is easy to update.
Are there any free resources, tools, or technologies being used in trial advocacy?
The web is filled with examples of case transcripts, lectures, video clips from courtroom proceedings, recordings from mock trial competitions, and blog posts. [For the last, see, e.g., https://www2.law.temple.edu/aer/advocacy/ ] Similarly, Zoom and other technologies permit recording and review of student performances.
Is there anything else you wanted to share?
My final statement is an equitable one: Our students spend an enormous amount of money on their education, and if we can reduce these costs while ensuring quality education, we should.
Thank you Professor Epstein!