South Texas College of Law Wins National Appellate Advocacy Com-petition

Vol. 39 No. 2

By

Alvan Balent graduated with honors from Florida State University College of Law in May 2010. He was the 2009–10 NAAC national student director.

For the second year in a row, South Texas College of Law won the ABA Law Student Division National Appellate Advocacy Competition (NAAC).

“It was such a great competition this year,” says South Texas College law student Zach Bowman. “With such an interesting and well-written problem that could be passionately argued by either side in so many different ways.”

“Every round was a challenge because each team we went against brought something new to the table,” he continues. “Each judge also had their own perspective on the issues, and thus, we consistently received interesting and probing questions that got right to the heart of each issue.”

Bowman, who was the National Best Advocate with an oral score of 93.85 out of 100, teamed with Roy Mitchell and James Barnish to take home the National Champion title.

The 31st annual competition began with appellate brief writing in December and culminated with the finals in Chicago in April. This year’s problem focused on federal preemption and asked teams to argue two issues: (1) whether the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards is an “act of Congress” subject to reverse preemption under the McCarran-Ferguson Act; and (2) whether the McCarran-Ferguson Act applies to arbitration agreements between American and foreign insurers.

This year, a record 195 teams from 118 law schools competed in the NAAC. The top four teams from each of the six regional rounds advanced to the finals. The preliminary round at the nationals required that each team argue at least once for each side.

Richard W. Hailey, Kaitlin Farrell, and Michael Ritter from the University of Texas School of Law were the National Finalist Team. Jason Jordan, Katherine Cross, and Justin Raines from Texas Tech University School of Law and Andrew Nelson, Chris Burt, and Ryan King from South Texas College of Law—which also won the National Best Brief Award—were the two National Semifinalist Teams. The national championship round was presided over by a panel of five Illinois Appellate Court judges.

“The ABA NAAC is, in my opinion, the premier advocacy competition in the country,” says Robert T. Sherwin, team coach of Texas Tech University School of Law. “It attracts the best students and teams from every school, and the level of competition—particularly at the National Finals—is the highest you’ll see at any competition anywhere.”

The ABA Law Student Division awarded $500 to each member of the National Champion Team, the National Best Advocate, and to the National Best Brief team; $300 to each member of the National Finalist Team; and $200 to each member of the Semifinalist Teams. Additionally, several ABA sections, including Antitrust, GPSolo, Intellectual Property, International Law, Law Practice Management, Litigation, Taxation, and the Young Lawyers Division provided books for the National Best Brief, Best Advocate, Finalist and Championship teams.

“Moot court gives law students such a different perspective on the legal profession; one that cannot be taught in a classroom,” says South Texas law student Mitchell. “It gives us the opportunity to apply the concepts and theories we learn in school, to real life situations. There is nothing quite like arguing in front of actual judges and attorneys who spend their lives doing this.”

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