Introduction to Trial Advocacy

Open to students entering grade 9 or 10 in the fall
I - June 29–July 17, 2020
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10 –11:00 a.m. and 1:10–3:00 p.m.
Florina Altshiler with Anthony Venditto

“I enjoyed how seriously the class was taken by both the instructor and the students.” — From a program course evaluation 

Course Description

Through lectures, assigned readings, class discussions, and group projects, students acquire an overview of the United States legal system and the federal and state court systems, ultimately gaining an understanding of the fundamentals of modern trial advocacy.

Distinctions are made between criminal law and civil law with a focus on the different burdens of proof in the two areas. Special attention is paid to the three key components of trial law: the attorney as advocate, the judge as the gatekeeper of the evidence, and the role of the jury as the ultimate fact finder.

Students prepare a case, complete with witnesses and exhibits, through final trial before a jury. Through daily classroom exercises, they learn how to present and cross-examine witnesses, introduce exhibits into evidence, and develop trial strategy to effectively argue their positions to a jury.

The course culminates with participants, divided into teams of prosecutors and defense attorneys, presenting their final cased in the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Manhattan through trial before a jury.

Participants should bring business attire for the final trial; parents and family are encouraged to attend. Please be aware that the class has extended hours (9am to 4:30pm) during the two days of the trial (Wednesday and Thursday of the third week).


Florina Altshiler

Florina Altshiler is the lead trial attorney for the Buffalo, NY office of Russo & Toner LLP, a New York City-based litigation firm, where she specializes in the defense of large loss casualty matters. Her practice also includes medical malpractice, construction liability and general negligence law. 

Ms. Altshiler offers legal commentary throughout the country and has been quoted by the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports and the NY Post. She is published in the New York Law Journal and the Buffalo Law Journal. She appears regularly on the ABC affiliate-WKBW, Channel 7, to offer legal commentary on the evening news.  She has also appeared on CNN, the NBC affiliate-WGRZ, Channel 2, CBS affiliate News 8 Rochester, and Time Warner Cable News.  She is routinely quoted by the Buffalo News and has been interviewed by Dr. Drew for KABC Los Angeles.

Prior to relocating to Buffalo, Ms. Altshiler served as a prosecutor for the State of Alaska, where she handled the prosecution of all levels of crime through jury trial. She successfully prosecuted dozens of cases through verdict, including violent felonies and sexual assault. During her time in the Special Assaults Unit, she focused on felony-level crimes against children and sexually-based offenses as well as homicides. She also served as the coach to the West Anchorage High School Mock Trial team, bringing them to the National tournament two years in a row, and as a legal advisor to the Anchorage Youth Court.

Florina has served as an adjunct professor of trial advocacy, both civil and criminal, at St. John's School of Law, where she was a Rosenberg Scholar and an Institutional Merit Scholar. She has received the Dr. Thomas C. Beneventano Award for Legal Medicine and an Excellence for the Future Award in Criminal Trial Advocacy, as well as the U.S. President's Student Service Award for Outstanding Service to America and United Hospital Fund's Student Achievement Award. She was featured as Lawline’s Top 20 Female Faculty in 2016.

Florina’s experience includes over a decade of litigation: criminal prosecution; civil defense and plaintiffs' side; the defense of complex medical malpractice cases and all aspects of insurance claims, including premises liability and automobile and construction accident litigation. Additionally, she has served as a judge at national and state level mock trial competitions for high schools, colleges, and law schools. She continues to serve as an arbitrator for the Civil Court of the City of New York and is also a Certified Federal Mediator for the Western District of NY. She also teaches Continuing Legal Education courses through the Defense Research Institute, the Erie County Bar Association, ClearLaw, Lawline, Defense Trial Lawyers Association and the Women’s Bar Association on topics including litigation and trial technique.

Anthony Venditto

Anthony Venditto is a partner at Furman Kornfeld and Brennan LLP, specializing in the defense of physicians, dentists, and hospitals in medical malpractice actions. He is a graduate of St. John's University School of Law. Following law school Anthony became an Assistant District Attorney in the office of New York County District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau. As a prosecutor he handled hundreds of narcotics cases, honing his courtroom skills, followed by an assignment to the District Attorney’s Trial Bureau, specializing in felony prosecutions of street crimes. After serving as an Assistant District Attorney for five years, he commenced his career in civil litigation, joining a distinguished Manhattan litigation defense firm.

For the past fifteen years Anthony's practice has been dedicated to complex medical malpractice and wrongful death actions. He has represented a number of metropolitan area hospitals and has given presentations to interns, residents, and attending physicians on a variety of topics in medical malpractice litigation. He has also successfully defended individuals and corporations in claims of general liability, automobile liability, lead paint, and other toxic tort claims. Anthony is a member of the Bronx County Bar Association and has achieved preeminent AV recognition by his peers in Martindale Hubbell.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.