by Brittany Hardy
Baylor Law students Kristen Blakely and James Willis received second place in the Duberstein National Moot Court Competition held at St. John's University in New York City, March 5 through 7.
Spurred by impressed judges and victories over tough opponents, Blakely and Willis gained confidence as they succeeded through rounds of the competition. In the quarter-finals they defeated the University of Miami, which fielded the team that received third place in last year's competition. In the end, Blakely and Willis brought home second place from one of the most prestigious law competitions in the country.
"The competition is arguably the most well-judged and well-funded competition in the country," Willis said, "Federal Judges are flown in from all over the country to judge."
In the competition's final round, Willis and Blakely argued before Federal Appellate judges from the 8th, 9th and 10th circuits.
Blakely describes arguing before the three U.S. Circuit Court judges and two bankruptcy judges from the Western and Southern Districts of New York as "the best part of making it to the final round."
Blakely and Willis truly saw their practice and preparation pay off.
"I was in awe standing in front of such a high-powered panel, but I had to put that aside for the moment and focus on the task at hand," Blakely said, "I felt such a great sense of accomplishment when the round was over, knowing I had just experienced one of the most challenging experiences of my life and made it through successfully."
A Gala Awards Banquet was held at Chelsea Piers on the Hudson River after the final round of the competition. There were about 1,000 people who attended this major New York social event.
"Our team had the opportunity to meet and mingle with leading bankruptcy judges and practitioners from all over the country," Blakely said, "To stand in front of all of those people and accept our second place award was one of the proudest moments of my life."
Willis echoes her sentiments.
"The award ceremony was one of the best events of my life. Kristen and I were awarded second place and a $3,000 check while on a jumbo-tron," Willis said, "We were proud to be representing Baylor and all that they'd taught us. I certainly felt that Baylor had prepared me far more for advocacy than my opponents."
Two Baylor Law teams travelled to New York City for this competition. Willis and Blakely made up one team. Kyle Counce and Trey Duck made up the other team. Judge Larry Kelly, Bill Drabble and Kathy Serr were their coaches. The teams also had the assistance of two brief writers -- Josue Caballero for the Counce/Duck team and Dustin Lucas for the Blakely/Willis team.
"We owe our success to our co-team, Kyle Counce and Trey Duck," Blakely said, "Sparring with them in practices and developing our arguments together pushed us to reach our potential. The help of our coach, Bill Drabble, was also invaluable. He knew the problem inside and out, and the questions he asked us in practices were more difficult than any we encountered in the competition."
Both Blakely and Willis plan to compete in next year's competition and hope to bring home first place.