Vol. 41 No. 1
By Shannon Allen
Shannon Allen was the 2011–12 national student director for the Law Student Division National Appellate Advocacy Competition.
Congratulations to the national champion team of Justin Lepp, Mikela Sutrina, and Nick Rosinia from Washington University School of Law for winning this year’s National Appellate Advocacy Competition (NAAC). They overcame the National Finalist Team of Brittney Lane, Megan Rechberg, and Natalie Ferral from Pepperdine University School of Law. Congratulations to the National Best Advocate, Scott C. Thompson from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law and to the National Best Brief Team, Diana Rogosa, Nicolas Billings, and Stephanie Kang from University of California, Hastings College of Law.
NAAC is the largest, most prestigious moot court competition in the country, with 211 teams from 120 schools competing in 6 regional competitions for 26 positions in the National Competition. “The NAAC is by far the best run competition of its kind,” Thompson notes. “From the support staff to the judges, the event runs seamlessly and is a pleasure to compete in.” Lane agrees, “the competition was one of the most fair and well-run competitions we have yet to attend.”
Competition began when “the problem” was released in November. This year’s problem, on the coverage of autism therapy under Medicaid, was complicated. Rechberg shares, “the problem was incredibly challenging––particularly because I was completely unfamiliar with the Medicaid Act and the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment mandate contained within the Act.” Thompson concurs, “this problem was the most complicated and complex yet.”
Competitors researched and wrote their briefs in December. Lane says, “we spent our Christmas vacation researching and writing [because] when we started researching and discovered that it was a completely novel issue, [and one] that even the courts had not really had the opportunity to address; we realized that it was going to take a lot of work to win.”
Competitors submitted briefs in January, delivered oral arguments at the regionals in February and March, and finalists traveled to Chicago for the National Competition in April. During three-day regionals, each team competed in the first three rounds and argued for both petitioner and respondent. “Teams send the best of the best to the NAAC competition, so the regional was also very competitive. However, everything steps up a notch at the national level. Some of the best teams we’ve ever competed against were at nationals,” Rechberg says.
“What makes nationals such a great competition is that every team is one of the best in the nation,” Thompson says. “So the competition is fierce from the very first round.” Sutrina adds, “we were facing teams who were utterly fantastic.”
Competition ended with the awards ceremony. “Being recognized at the preeminent moot court competition where only the best of the best compete is an incredible honor that I will never forget,” Thompson says.
Lepp says, “together with the skills of our brilliant coach and lots of practice hours, . . . our success should be attributed to how close we worked together as a team and the incredible talent of my teammates.”
Sutrina sums up the entire experience, “the NAAC competition is, without question, the most challenging thing I tackled in law school. It was also the most rewarding. I was given the opportunity to work under the guidance of brilliant and dedicated coaches, and alongside some of the most talented writers and advocates I will ever meet. This competition isn’t just about winning; it’s about teamwork, friendship, and pushing yourself to the top through hard work and practice.”