About the Program

The Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Program at UVA Law School gives students a unique opportunity to learn the skills involved in appellate and Supreme Court practice, from the doctrinal basics to researching and writing actual briefs and arguing cases before federal courts around the country in clinic work. At the appellate level, clinic students often work on cases involving constitutional disputes and novel legal issues that may set new precedents that shape the law and guide the outcomes of future cases.

Students interested in appellate litigation have more than 30 curricular options available to prepare them for leading high-stakes appeals, including courses that explore the evolving federal judiciary, public speaking courses and classes on how to change public policy through impact litigation, among others.

Innovation in Appellate Work

At the center of the program are two clinics that give students hands-on experience in appellate practice. Launched in 2006, the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic has argued 18 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Students research cases, write briefs and prepare their instructors to argue before the Supreme Court when a case is granted cert. The Appellate Litigation Clinic allows students themselves to argue before federal appellate courts across the country, working in teams that also prepare briefs. Several other clinics also handle appellate matters.

In addition, the Law School hosts the National Appellate Clinic Network, an innovative program that makes it possible for clinics across the country to collaborate on litigation efforts, share briefs online and track the status of one another’s cases.

Through the En Banc Institute, students help prepare litigators who are scheduled to argue their appeals before a full panel of federal judges — an indication that the appeal carries significance and may progress to the Supreme Court. Students serve as opposing counsel and UVA Law faculty and alumni serve as judges while lawyers test out their arguments in moot court exercises.

An experienced group of current and former litigators who have argued in federal and state appellate courts across the country and at the U.S. Supreme Court are involved in the program. Judges; scholars in federal courts, evidence and civil procedure; experienced practitioners; and experts in negotiation, oral advocacy and more also teach courses.


Virginia’s faculty includes numerous experienced appellate litigators and former U.S. Supreme Court and federal appellate clerks with deep knowledge of the judicial system and appellate advocacy. Among faculty members who teach core courses are:

  • Scott Ballenger, director of the Appellate Litigation Clinic; a former partner in Latham & Watkins’ Supreme Court and appellate practice, he has argued multiple cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and dozens in courts of appeals and trial courts across the country.
  • Cate Stetson, co-instructor of the Appellate Litigation Clinic and instructor of the Appellate Practice course; Stetson is the co-director of Hogan Lovells' nationally acclaimed appellate practice group and has made multiple arguments before the Supreme Court, every federal circuit court of appeals, state appellate courts ranging from New York to California, and district courts spanning the country from Alaska to Vermont.
  • Molly Bishop Shadel, leader of the school’s public speaking and oral advocacy program; in addition to serving as a lawyer with Covington & Burling and with the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review before joining UVA, Shadel studied theater at Northwestern University’s graduate directing program and directed plays professionally in New York.
  • Xiao Wang, director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic and the En Banc Institute; Wang previously directed Supreme Court and federal appellate clinics at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and has led appeals before state courts, federal circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Extracurricular Training

Apart from the program’s offerings, several student organizations teach additional skills relevant to future appellate attorneys. Law School students organize and compete in an annual moot court competition, the William Minor Lile Moot Court, now almost 100 years old. The Extramural Moot Court team sponsors teams that travel across the country to compete, and students also regularly test their abilities in two international moot competitions that hone brief-writing and oral argument skills.

Beyond the Classroom

Faculty Director(s)
Scott Ballenger
Assistant Professor of Law, General Faculty
Director, Appellate Litigation Clinic
Xiao Wang
Assistant Professor of Law, General Faculty
Director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic
Assistant Professor of Public Policy, General Faculty, Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy