Alumni reminisce about real-world applications of the workshop established in 1988 by James Woods for students to hone their case preparation and management skills.

James Woods speaks to former students at a reunion for the Civil Litigation Workshop he has taught for more than 20 years

Many students who take up studies at the Faculty of Law enter with scenes from Law and Order percolating at the back of their minds.

But since 1988, more than 400 such students have also lived out a full trial experience as part of the Civil Litigation Workshop established and taught by James A. Woods BA’70, BCL’73, LLB’74.

The workshop culminates against the dramatic backdrop of the Superior Court in Montreal, where the students take part in a full-day trial before a judge.

This moot exam was the highlight of the course for Joanne Chriqui BCL’95, LLB’95, who attended a reunion celebration for the workshop this spring.

Chriqui’s case for her moot at the Superior Court sought to establish whether a man had committed suicide, thus invalidating his life insurance claim, or whether he had been killed.

“We had to determine the angle and trajectory of a rifle shot, we built a true-scale replica of the rifle, we debated whether someone could be standing or sitting…” she said, describing with a laugh the lengths to which she and her case partner went to prepare for the exam.

“Mr. Woods imparted examination and cross-examination skills that I still use today and I still remember vividly my witness crumbling on the stand during the moot when I thought we were properly prepared!”

Sarah Woods, BCL/LLB’03, took the course with her father in 2001 and began teaching it in 2005. She organized the reunion celebration to mark the course’s 23 year history at the Faculty of Law. “The partners at Woods LLP realized he’s been teaching for a really long time – that it’s quite an accomplishment – and wanted to celebrate the union between the university, the firm and all the students,” she said.

“Not one day in my practice goes by where I don’t use the skill set taught to me by James Woods,” said litigator Normand Perreault BCL’89, LLB’89, who took the very first workshop in 1988 and who also attended the celebration.

“I’ve tried to apply those skills as best as I can and I try to teach them to young attorneys here at the office who did not have the opportunity to follow such a course.”

The reunion event featured speakers including the Honourable Joseph R. Nuss, the Honourable Marie Deschamps and the Honourable Pierre A. Michaud, who was also the presiding judge during Perreault’s workshop moot 23 years ago.

“The experience of preparing an entire case from the ground up is unbelievable,” said Alison Glaser BCL/LLB’09. “It’s a class that had very specifically real-world applications and it’s the class that is the most helpful for my work now.”

By Victoria Leenders-Cheng