Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

Litigation is generally thought of as the process of resolving rights-based disputes through the court system, from filing a law suit through arguments on legal motions, a discovery phase involving formal exchange of information, courtroom trial and appeal. Litigation also encompasses administrative or regulatory processes for establishing legal rights and resolving disputes. Even if you do not plan to be a litigator, some familiarity with the litigation process will help you advise clients on how best to avoid disputes regarding legal rights.

Many legal disputes are resolved through direct negotiation, often based on a lawyer's advice, but without formally filing a claim to commence litigation.  In fact, only a small percentage of litigated cases proceed through trial. Most are settled through negotiation, mediation, arbitration or other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). In mediation, a neutral mediator assists the parties' efforts to reach a settlement, but does not have binding decision-making power.  Arbitration is a relatively informal adjudicative process in which the arbitrator's decision is usually binding. A wide range of contracts include mandatory mediation or arbitration provisions and many court-related programs offer one or more forms of ADR.

Students in litigation and ADR practice should gain a thorough understanding of these processes, as well as grounding in the skills required for becoming an effective advocate.

Process is insufficient without substantive legal knowledge. Thus, students are advised to take classes in the substantive legal areas in which they intend to practice. However, the good news is that litigators can also be generalists, and a well-rounded legal education will serve them well.


Cincinnati Law students build a foundation in litigation and alternative dispute resolution by taking Civil Procedure, Legal Research and Writing, and Advocacy in their first year. Those interested in trial practice are advised to try out for the trial practice team at the end of their first year.

In the second year, students take Client Counseling to learn basic skills in interacting with clients, an important aspect of solving problems and handling disputes. (Client Counseling is required, but future litigators or ADR practitioners are advised to take the Client Counseling course focused on the disputes context.) Second year students may be eligible for the Trial Practice competition team and course in the fall or the spring semester Trial Practice course.

Of course, in the second and third year, students are advised to take many of the courses in litigation, negotiation, ADR, arbitration, and decision analysis.

Students are encouraged to meet with our faculty and Center for Professional Development staff to develop a plan best suited to their professional career goals.

  • Administrative Law
  • Advanced Decision Analysis
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution, Introduction to
  • Appellate Practice and Procedure
  • Business Basics for Lawyers
  • Civil Rights Litigation
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Client Counseling (Disputes)
  • Electronic Discovery: Procedural and Evidentiary Issues
  • Evidence
  • Federal Courts
  • International Commercial Arbitration
  • Negotiations
  • Practical Applications: Expert Witnesses at Trial
  • Pretrial Litigation
  • Remedies
  • Trial Practice
  • Witness Preparation


Cincinnati Law offers students many opportunities to supplement its rigorous curriculum and build skills in litigation, mediation, negotiation, and dispute resolution. These simulated and real-world experiences are invaluable for preparing students to practice as litigators and ADR practitioners.

UC Law a participates in the American Bar Association sponsored competitions in Negotiation and other transactional or subject matter specific negotiation competitions. Of course, participation in the Trial Practice Team national and regional competitions similarly prepares Cincinnati Law students for the courtroom.

Because writing is central to this area of the law, students should use every opportunity to improve and practice their writing and advocacy skills. Any of the Cincinnati Law clinics and journals will give students opportunities to improve and practice these skills.

Judicial externships with the U.S. District Court, the Ohio Court of Common Pleas, or other courts with criminal jurisdiction are valuable. Students also can take advantage of legal externships with a prosecutor or defense organization or the Sixth Circuit Mediation Office.

Third-year students who have completed at least 60 credit hours toward graduation can obtain an intern’s license, allowing them to practice in court under the supervision of a prosecutor or defense lawyer. For example, the Indigent Defense Clinic allows supervised third-year law students to represent clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies in Hamilton County. Students also can work part-time in their second and third years in litigation practice at many of the 800 law firms located in the Cincinnati area.

Volunteer opportunities are available at organizations such as the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. Any student who performs 15 or more hours of volunteer legal work receives an official transcript notation.


Lawyers help their clients solve problems and resolve disputes with other parties. Litigators, mediators, arbitrators, and dispute resolution design professionals work in both the public sector and in private practice. They may work as trial lawyers in a criminal or civil practice, or even as attorneys for a corporation or non-profit organization.

A wide variety of career opportunities also exist for those skilled in litigation and alternative dispute resolution.