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Duke University School of Law Wins National Appellate Advocacy Competition


By Zelideth Maguina.

Duke University School of Law’s team of Karen Beach, Catherine Lawson, and Benjamin Baucom narrowly defeated the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law team of Kim Bowman, Jeremy Ehrlich, and Conness Thompson to become the 2010–11 National Appellate Advocacy Competition (NAAC) national champions. The championship round was April 9 in the Supreme Court of Illinois Chicago Courtroom. The Duke team attributed its victory to preparation and coach Stephen Rawson.

University of Florida, Fredric G. Levin College of Law’s Wilbert Vancol was the National Best Advocate. School of Law semifinalist team of Nicole Haddad, Michael Raupp, and Karson Thompson was one of the National Best Brief teams. The team of Caitlin Christian, Jill Larrabee, and Leo Moniz of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law tied for National Best Brief. Alexis Butler, Daniel Durrell, and Jason Jordan from Texas Tech University School of Law was the other semifinalist team.

Competition began when “the problem” was released in November. The issues presented were whether a pharmaceutical company’s First Amendment challenge to a fictional state’s Drug Free Act of 2010 was ripe for judicial review; and whether the act violated the company’s First Amendment Right to engage in commercial speech. Competitors had until January to finish their briefs. They then delivered oral arguments at regional competitions. Beach says, “What I enjoyed about competing in the NAAC was that the sustained focus, over a semester and a half, on a single case allows you to become intimately familiar with a single area of law.”

The NAAC is among the ’ largest moot court competitions. A record number of NAAC teams—207 from 122 law schools—competed this year. However, only the top four teams from each of the six regional competitions advanced to the national finals in . Regionals consist of five competition rounds over three days with every team competing in the first three rounds. Each team argues at least once for both the petitioner and the respondent at both the regional and national levels of competition. “When you prepare for a moot court competition, you don’t know the questions that you’ll get from the judges or the arguments your opponents will use,” Lawson says. “So to be prepared, you and your teammates have to think through every aspect of the case.” Also, Thompson says, “It would take several years in the real world to gain that much experience instead of just two weekends! I like that because of ABA NAAC, I have that experience under my belt before even leaving law school.”

Baucom says, “the NAAC administrators did a truly excellent job, and a well-run tournament makes for a much better competing experience.” Similarly, Thompson says, “by comparison, some moot court competitions have as few as two rounds prior to the championship round. Therefore, I would describe the ABA NAAC experience as intense—both physically and mentally.”

Participants agreed that the moot court competition is a great opportunity for law students to apply concepts and theories learned in school. Students are put into a simulated court proceeding, which helps them hone their public speaking and analytical writing skills.

The Law Student Division provides monetary awards to the winners of the two semifinal teams, each member of the national finalist team, each member of the National Champion team, the Best Advocate, and the Best Brief team. Additionally, the national champion and national finalist teams received book awards donated by several sections, including Criminal Justice; Family Law; Law Practice Management; and the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division.


Vol. 40 No. 1

Zelideth Maguina was the 2010-11 NAAC national student director.

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.

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