Skip To Content
Insights: U.S. Legal System - Online is a Course

Insights: U.S. Legal System - Online

Started Aug 10, 2020

Sorry! The enrollment period is currently closed. Please check back soon.

Full course description

Registration Deadline: August 5, 2020
Estimated Time to Complete: 20 hours

Join expert Boston College Law School faculty for this popular 5-day introduction to the U.S.
legal system – now offered online!

Participants will learn about:

  • The system of justice and legal problem-solving in the U.S.
  • The role of the lawyer in the U.S.
  • The facilitative role lawyers play in business transactions
  • How to introduce evidence in a case
  • How civil and criminal cases are handled in the U.S.
  • The role of constitutional courts
  • The appeals process in the U.S.
  • Models of governance in times of stress
  • Environmental law and lessons for the future

Each of the five days will offer a two-hour, live synchronous session and a two-hour, recorded
asynchronous session. The live sessions offered via Zoom will be interactive; participants may
attend recorded sessions at a time that is convenient. Total program hours: 20.

All sales are final; no refunds. Registrations may not be transferred to another person or
to another course, workshop, or program.

Session Information:

Session I: Introduction to the U.S. Legal System and Legal Problem-Solving
Monday, August 10, 2020, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT (Synchronous)
Instructor: Joan Blum
This session introduces the fundamentals of the U.S. legal system. Topics include an overview of the U.S.
Constitution, federalism, the structure and function of courts, sources of legal authority, and common-
law methodology.

Session 2: Introduction to Transactional Law Practice
Monday, August 10, 2020, 2 Hours (Asynchronous)
Instructor: Paul Tremblay
Most lawyers in the United States engage in transactional practice. Unlike litigators who represent
clients in court or administrative hearings, lawyers work with individuals or businesses to arrange their
affairs, establish legal and organizational structures, and advise about compliance. This introduction will
focus on one increasingly relevant aspect of that work—representing startups. The session will outline
the typical steps in organizing a new business, including choosing an appropriate entity, arranging the
relationships among the founders and any new investors or workers, protecting the enterprise’s
intellectual property, and addressing any ethical issues that arise.

Session 3: Professional Responsibility and the Role of the Lawyer
Tuesday, August 11, 2020, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT (Synchronous)
Instructor: Judith A. McMorrow
Through professional responsibility and legal ethics we will explore the significant responsibility lawyers
have to shape law in a common law system, and their responsibility to advocate for clients in the
adversary system. The session will also explore how professional responsibility norms differ slightly
around the world, reflecting the varying visions of independence and the balance of client-centered and
social responsibility.

Session 4: Introduction to Evidence
Tuesday, August 11, 2020, 2 Hours (Asynchronous)
Instructor: Jeffrey M. Cohen
U.S. judges use rules of evidence to control the flow of information that a jury is allowed to hear.
Evidentiary rules seek to balance access to relevant information with a desire to avoid evidence that is
unreliable, inflammatory, or repetitive. This session will explore the reasons for Rules of Evidence and
cover some of the major topics, including relevance and hearsay.

Session 5: Introduction to Civil Litigation: Pre-Trial Practice
Wednesday, August 12, 2020, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT (Synchronous)
Instructor: Alan D. Minuskin
This practice-focused, interactive session provides an overview of the development of a civil case from
client interview through conclusion of a matter. Stages and skills covered include client interviewing,
case planning and pleading, fact investigation (including discovery), client counseling, and negotiation.
The session also highlights how a civil litigator's often competing ethical responsibilities (to the client, to
the court, to the legal system, to the opposing side, and others) naturally lead to challenges in making
strategic decisions.

Session 6: Perspectives: Judges and Prosecutors on the U.S. Legal System
Wednesday, August 12, 2020, 2 Hours (Asynchronous)
Instructors: Hon. Christine McEvoy (Ret.) and Kevin Curtin
Judge Christine M. McEvoy and Prosecutor Kevin J. Curtin will address the respective roles of an
independent judiciary and a professional prosecutor’s office in the U.S. criminal justice system. Their
focus will be on the process of fairly adjudicating the criminal responsibility of persons accused of
crimes, while protecting the individual rights of all parties involved and respecting the accused’s right to
the due process of law.

Session 7: The Role of Constitutional Courts in Democracies
Thursday, August 13, 2020, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT (Synchronous)
Instructor: Pedro Lenza
Constitutional democracies around the world face a common issue in justifying and accepting judicial
review. When a constitutional court strikes down legislative enactments passed by a body elected by the
people, it raises a “counter-majoritarian legitimacy” issue. Why should unelected judges be able to
overturn the legislatively determined will of the people? This session will analyze precedents to explore the roles played by the courts in constitutional democracies – counter-majoritarian,
representative, and enlightened.

Session 8: Introduction to Appellate Litigation
Thursday, August 13, 2020, 2 Hours (Asynchronous)
Instructor: Thomas Barnico
This session will introduce the student to appellate litigation in the United States.  We will cover the
organization and jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme
Court, including the considerations that inform Supreme Court review of lower federal and state court
decisions. The session will next cover the key elements of appellate litigation: the decision to appeal,
preparation of the briefs and record, and oral argument. Finally, we will study a case argued by the
instructor and decided in the United States Supreme Court, Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council,
530 U.S. 363 (2000) (striking down Massachusetts law restricting state entities from buying goods or
services from companies doing business with Myanmar (Burma)).

Session 9: Resilient Models of Governance in Times of Human and Planetary Stress
Friday, August 14, 2020, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT (Synchronous)
Instructor: Zygmunt Plater
Given the current situation of stressful global existential threats – most notably climate change and
coronavirus (COVID-19) – lawyers need to understand how the complex structures of civic governance in
the U.S. and around the world have evolved over the years. This session will explore how these
structures successfully – or less successfully – manage the dynamically changing demands of new
threats, new technologies, and evolving societal norms.
Closing Session
Friday, August 14, 2020, 11:00 AM to 11:30 AM EDT (Synchronous)
Instructor: Judith McMorrow

Session 10: Environmental Law and Its Lessons for Future Governance
Friday, August 14, 2020, 2 Hours (Asynchronous)
Moderator: Susan Simone Kang
Panelists: Zygmunt Plater, Pedro Lenza
Environmental protection law is a relatively young sector of law in the U.S. and abroad; however,
patterns and frameworks have evolved that illuminate major themes and necessities of long-term
societal governance and sustainability. Environmental protection law is one of the only areas of the U.S.
legal system that explicitly takes into account the needs of future generations in establishing its
regulatory standards. This panel will explore some of the specific features of U.S. environmental law that
have direct relevance in other national systems, as well as its general thematic features, which are
relevant in virtually all modern national states.

Instructor Information:

photo of Thomas Barnico
Thomas Barnico
Adjunct Professor,
Boston College Law School


photo of E. Joan Blum
E. Joan Blum
Associate Professor of the Practice,
Boston College Law School


photo of Jeffery Cohen
Jeffery M. Cohen
Assistant Professor of the Practice,
Boston College Law School


photo of Kevin Curtin
Kevin Curtin

Senior Appellate Counsel,
Middlesex County
District Attorney's Office
Adjunct Professor,
Boston College Law School


photo of Susan Kang
Susan Simone Kang
Director of Graduate Legal Education
and International Programs
Adjunct Professor,
Boston College Law School


photo of Pedro Lenza
Pedro Lenza
Visiting Professor,
Boston College Law School


photo of Christine McEvoy
Hon. Christine McEvoy (Ret.)
Massachusetts Superior Court
Adjunct Professor,
Boston College Law School


photo of Judith McMorrow
Judith A. McMorrow

Professor of Law and
Associate Dean of
Experiential Learning and
Global Engagement,
Boston College Law School


photo of Alan Minuskin
Alan D. Minuskin
Associate Clinical Professor,
Boston College Law School


photo of Zygnmunt Plater
Zygmunt Jan Broël Plater
Professor of Law,
Boston College Law School


photo of Paul Tremblay
Paul R. Tremblay
Clinical Professor of Law,
Boston College Law School