'Amazing' Baylor Law Team Victorious At Prestigious National Mock Trial Contest

April 11, 2005
News Photo 2770Spirit Walker, the bear statue at the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, helped to spread the good news about Baylor Law School's national mock trial championship.

by Alan Hunt

Facing competition from top mock trial teams from all over the country, Baylor Law School scored a resounding victory at the annual Student Trial Advocacy Competition sponsored in West Palm Beach, Fla., during the weekend by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA).

Baylor law students Paul Bailiff, Robert Little, Gabe Head and Meredith Black-Matthews formed what ATLA described on its website as "the amazing team from Baylor Law School" which won the contest. The ATLA website added, "The national finals winning team and their coach (Baylor Law Professor Jeremy Counseller) will receive free airfare, hotel accommodations, and registration to the ATLA Annual Convention in Toronto, Canada, July 23-27, where they will be honored."

In second place in the contest was St. John's University School of Law, N.Y., and the semi-finalists were Washburn University School of Law, Topeka, Kan., and Barry University School of Law, Orlando, Fla. Quarter finalists were University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill, N.C., University of Akron School of Law, Akron, Ohio, Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Ala., and Duquesne School of Law, Pittsburgh, Pa.

The ATLA contest usually focuses on civil cases and includes product liability, personal injury, or medical malpractice/negligence issues. The competing students are judged on their skills in case preparation, opening statements, use of facts, the examination of lay and expert witnesses, and closing arguments.

The mock trial tournament got underway nationwide Feb. 14 this year in 14 cities, where 223 teams from 138 schools faced each other regionally. The top team from each region advanced to the finals competition. Baylor Law claimed victory in the regional contest, held in Dallas. A total of 16 teams, representing nine Texas law schools, participated in the regional tournament, which was judged by practicing lawyers and judges from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Baylor Law School, ranked earlier this month by U.S.News & World Report as having the sixth best advocacy program in the nation, has enjoyed a tradition of success in the ATLA contest. In 2003, Baylor students won third place in the national competition, held in New Orleans, and in 2004, Baylor teams won first and second places in the regional and then went on to again clinch third place in the national finals held in Florida.

Professor Gerald R. Powell, who serves as the Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence, described the ATLA contest as an important national mock trial competition. Success in the tournament places winning teams "squarely in the top level of trial advocacy programs," he said. Powell worked with Counseller in the preparation of the Baylor teams, along with recent graduate Eric Porterfield, who served as an assistant coach.

Expressing his pride in the students' success, Counseller said this was a direct result of countless hours of preparation as well as their command of the law of evidence and procedure, "for which we all have the Practice Court program to thank."

Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben said, "Baylor Law winning the national championship in the ATLA Mock Competition is a huge accomplishment for our students and our program. Earlier this month, Baylor Law School was ranked #6 nationally in trial advocacy by U.S. News. This win is a solid confirmation of our recognition as a national power. Our school's profile and reputation in trial advocacy is stellar. This national championship in a major competition once again underscores the quality and focus of our students and their faculty coaches and mentors. It is an honor that ranks among the foremost of compliments that can be paid to a school."

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