First-Year Students Prove Their Skills in LAWS Competition
The only law school in the country to provide first-year students with three distinct choices for developing advocacy skills, Southwestern held its inaugural LAWS Intramural Competitions in April. The culminating activity of the new three-track Legal Analysis Writing and Skills (LAWS) program enabled more students than in the past to participate and receive recognition for excellence in appellate advocacy (Moot Court), negotiation, or trial advocacy.
Following two mandatory LAWS rounds, a total of 247 students out of 336 went on to the intramural rounds: 100 for Moot Court, 104 for Negotiation, and 43 for Trial Advocacy. The top oralists and writers from those respective competitions are eligible to interview for membership in the Moot Court, Negotiation and Trial Advocacy honors programs.
"I was privileged to participate in all three intramural competitions and witness the high quality of advocacy in each," said Professor Tracy Turner, Director of the LAWS Program. "Each of the three different intramural problems challenged students to reach a high level of competency in legal research, writing and oral advocacy. It has always been impressive to watch our 1Ls deliver oral appellate arguments worthy of the most polished and seasoned practitioners, but this year we also got to see our students successfully negotiate win-win deals despite sharply conflicting interests in the negotiation track and deliver powerful closing arguments in the trial advocacy track. For me, the three tracks reinforced my respect for the innate talent and strong drive of our students. They will make great lawyers."
In the Moot Court Competition, Jennifer Seigle was named First Place Oralist and Anthony Martinez took Second Place Oralist. Kevin Sexton and Jessica Balady were Semifinalist Oralists, and Justin Brossier, Jessica King, Courtney Martin and Troy Mueller were Quarterfinalist Oralists. In the writing portion of the competition, Yosef Itkin won First Place Writer, while Natalie Rodriguez, Angie Hua and Iman Nabizadeh earned Second, Third and Fourth Place Writer honors. Jennifer Seigle was also named Best Overall Oralist.
In this year's moot court problem, students analyzed the limits of a defense referred to as "outrageous government conduct" based on the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. The case concerned the government’s use of an informant to infiltrate an eco-terrorist organization. The defendant in the case claimed she was coerced into participating by the informant who also planned every aspect of a bombing except for the last minute change in the target. The facts of the problem gave students strong arguments both in favor of and against application of the defense, obligating them to conduct a detailed factual analysis and synthesize a complex body of federal case law on the defense.
In the Negotiation Competition, where students argued in pairs, Ilyssa Adler and Garrett Charity won First Place Advocates and Garen Boyadzhyan and Gayane Zorabian earned Second Place Advocates. Steven Bercovitch, Aryan Sarbaz, Aaron Abergel and Andrew Sommers were Semifinalist Advocates. Jason Benkner was recognized for Best Brief and Lisa Li took Second Place Brief.
There were several completely different problems for Negotiation competitors to tackle, as a new and unique problem was developed for each round of the competition. They included situations concerning a car accident, a Wills and Trusts issue, an employment contract, and a real estate leasing conflict. Kyle Marks, Chair of the Negotiation Honors Program explained that each problem that the teams received contained two elements: general information and confidential information from their client that would give the team specific needs and wants as well as outlining their authority.
"I was very impressed with the caliber of talent in the competition," said Professor Nyree Gray, who along with Professor Cristina Knolton, serves as faculty advisor for Southwestern’s Negotiation Honors Program. "I am looking forward to next year."
Of the Trial Advocacy Finalists, Michael Bauer won Best Advocate and Kunal Jain won Second Place Advocate. The two other finalists were Nestor Lopez and John Twomey. Carlos Arias, Anet Badali, Carlos Perez and Enrique Rodriguez were quarterfinalists. In the writing portion of the competition, Sarah Braun won First Place Brief and Enrique Rodriguez earned Second Place Brief.
The students presented the prosecution or defense in a murder trial in which the defendant allegedly ordered his trained fighting pit-bull to attack the victim, who was slated to marry the defendant's niece. The case was challenging in that there were no witnesses and the evidence was very slim and circumstantial.
"The competition was one of the most difficult, yet fun experiences I have had in law school yet," said Bauer. "Watching the different advocacy styles throughout the rounds, coupled with the critiques I received from professors, judges, and alums as the competition progressed is what helped my preparation the most... It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life."
At the Awards Banquets where many of the winners were announced, Vice Dean Parrish praised the participants: "Southwestern is the only law school in the country to offer a three-track LAWS programs. All of the students were simply extraordinary in their competitions. It is evenings like this that make us as professors proud to call Southwestern our home."