So what is an LL.M. in Litigation Management, why does Baylor Law School have one, and why am I in it? The idea behind the program and my participation is that things can be done better in litigation—and I want to study how.
The program is the first of its kind in the nation. As one of its alumni, Amazon Risk Manager Aaron Mutnick puts it, the LL.M. in Litigation Management “enables lawyers to manage a team and lead their company or firm’s efforts to manage a high-volume, high-stakes docket.” To do this, the program seeks to do four things:
- Equip litigation management specialists to providing results-oriented, cost-effective client solutions;
- Equip litigation firms and departments to deliver outstanding client results with profitability;
- Equip national thought leaders for solving litigation justice system problems; and most importantly to
- Prevent the disappearance of our Seventh Amendment right to jury trial
In short, to preserve our right to a jury trial, we must find a way to show that things can be done better in litigation. That was attractive to me because I’d like to have in my and my law firm’s toolbox the state-of-the-art approaches to litigation management to help us better manage our clients’ interests in litigation.
This isn’t my first master’s program—or even my second. Before coming to Baylor Law School the first time, I had already obtained a master’s degree in public administration from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, and last year I earned a second master’s degree—this time in World War II Studies—through a joint program by Arizona State University and the National World War II Museum. I enjoy learning, and after the recent experience through ASU, I knew I could handle a predominantly online master’s program. But I wanted the next one to be something I could use in my day job as a lawyer focused—for 30 years now—on litigation in Texas courts.
The program consists of three “trimesters” of work. The number of courses per trimester varies, but as an example, the first trimester has six courses plus a research project. The courses include topics as varied as fundamentals of litigation management, damages, case assessment, forum selection issues, business strategy, and data analytics. And that’s just this trimester. In the spring we’ll be studying cybersecurity, insurance and litigation funding, regulatory investigations, privilege issues, and so forth. Obviously, many of these topics will be of great use to me and my law firm in representing clients in litigation.
The work includes readings, assignments, and lecture components—some of which are pre-recorded, and some of which are live. Assignments can be completed using a case packet, but students are encouraged to use their own active cases (with appropriate confidentiality, of course) to fulfill assignments. For example, you could fulfill an assignment to come up with a damages model for a case by taking a fact situation from an existing case, modifying it to eliminate case identifying information, and do the analysis using that instead of the generic case packet.
The program concludes with a research project, consisting of three trimesters of work preparing a short and a long paper on a topic of my choosing. The short piece is intended for publication in a bar or specialty journal, while the longer piece must be at least 20 pages and include substantial research with the assistance of a law student research assistant. I’m already busy outlining what I think will be the topic of my papers based on what I already know I’m interested in.
The program has both online and live components. The latter include regular live lectures, as well as a week of live programming each trimester, which includes panel discussions with lawyers and judges, hands-on activities (we observed and studied a trial focus group last month), and classroom sessions.
The difference between the J.D. and LL.M. programs—I have already figured out—is that our classroom sessions are often upstairs in the dean’s conference room, complete with snacks and a coffee station. It is definitely an improvement over law school, when we, of course, had to walk to class uphill both ways (and in the snow).
So far I am having a ridiculous amount of fun reading, writing, listening, and thinking about the subject of litigation management in the program. How “can” I do the job I’ve been doing—for the past 30 years—better?
Michael C. Smith practices with Scheef & Stone in his hometown of Marshall, where he specializes in complex commercial patent litigation in federal court. He is editor of the Eastern District of Texas Federal Court Practice and Texas IP Law blogs at www.EDTexweblog.com and updating editor of O’Connor’s Federal Rules * Civil Trials. He currently serves on the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors and is a past president of the East Texas chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and the Eastern District of Texas Bar Association.