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March 19, 2010

Pepperdine University School of Law Takes Top Honors in Student Trial Advocacy Competition

Pepperdine University School of Law has placed first in the _ Section of Labor and Employment Law Sixth Annual Student Trial Advocacy Competition, winning out over Southern Methodist University in the final round of this national competition held in Washington, D.C.

“The support from Pepperdine has been very overwhelming,” said team member Richard Gillespie, 30, on his return to the school in Malibu, California following the finals.  “When I walked into the school two deans shook hands with me.  The news that we’d won had already spread around the school.”

From right to left: Pepperdine University School of Law team members Zachary Shine, Richard Gillespie, , Hannah Montgomery , Seth Laursen, and team coach J. Michael Crowe. Center: Judge Bernice B. Donald, competition judge.

From right to left: Pepperdine University School of Law team members Zachary Shine, Richard Gillespie, , Hannah Montgomery , Seth Laursen, and team coach J. Michael Crowe. Center: Judge Bernice B. Donald, competition judge.

Pepperdine and Southern Methodist University in Dallas were in a field of eight teams that competed in the finals held at the end of January.  Those teams had been winnowed down from 84 teams representing 59 different law schools that entered regional competitions last November.  Other finalists included: Harvard University, Boston; Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago; Falkner University, Birmingham, Ala.; Brooklyn Law School, New York; Golden Gate University, San Francisco; and the University of Virginia, Washington, D.C.

Noting that Pepperdine has returned to the national finals twice in the last three years, Gillespie praised the school for preparing students so well to compete at the national level.  “Pepperdine has a good system going for their teams and they are very celebratory of them.”

Gillespie’s teammates were Hannah Montgomery and Zachary Shine, like Gillespie both third-year law students in their last semester, and Seth Laursen, a second-year student.

The Labor and Employment Law Trial Advocacy Competition introduces law students to the challenges and rewards of employment and labor litigation.  The competition offers participants an opportunity to develop their trial advocacy skills in a mock courtroom experience, hone the skills they will be using as practitioners, and meet and network with fellow law students and labor and employment law practitioners.

This year’s competition involved a Sarbanes-Oxley retaliation case. Throughout the competition, two preliminary rounds were held on the first day of match ups followed by the semi-finals and finals the next day.  Teams were comprised of four students, two as advocates and two as witnesses for their own trial team. During each trial, student advocates conduct a direct examination, a cross-examination, and present either an opening statement or closing argument.  A “judge” and “jury”—the evaluators, comprised of state and federal court judges or experienced LEL section litigators—score the performances and provide constructive comments.

How has the competition affected Gillespie’s direction as he moves into a career in law?

“From this experience, I’m looking at staying in labor and employment law,” he said.  “Hopefully, this will catapult me into a career in that area of practice.”

Learn More About:  Employment LawLabor Law