Advocacy competitions hone the skills of lawyering.
Competing against their classmates and the best that other U.S. law schools have to offer, UB Law students were busy this fall taking their legal advocacy skills to the next level. Under the auspices of the law school’s Advocacy Institute, the competitions encompassed what have been called the three pillars of advocacy skills: presenting cases in trial simulations, appellate moot courts, and attorney advocacy in mediation.
October 22-24, 2021
The annual Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition, one of the biggest national invitationals in the country, welcomes participants from coast to coast. This year’s competition drew teams from 28 law schools. More than 140 attorneys and judges from Buffalo and worldwide served as judges and trial evaluators and over 40 UB Law students volunteered as bailiffs. The competition’s smooth transition to a virtual venue can be credited to the hard work of Stephen Soos ’21, Morgann Obrochta ’20, Kimberly Wallace ’08 and Elizabeth Vinal ’22, along with Jennifer Scharf ’05, director of the law school’s Trial Advocacy Program and Dawn Skopinski, associate director of The Advocacy Institute.
Hon. Lawrence J. Vilardo, U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of New York, presided over the fictitious case of People v. RJ LaHood, a case drafted by Hon. Thomas P. Franczyk. A team from Yale Law School, at the prosecutors’ table, defeated a team from Penn State Law in a close final match on Oct. 24, decided by a 5-4 vote.
Among the other institutions represented were the law schools of Washington University in St. Louis, Quinnipiac College and Duquesne University.
November 4-6, 2021
The venerable Charles S. Desmond Moot Court Competition, open to all second and third-year UB Law students, is now in its fourth decade of intramural competition. Joshua Larmon ’23 and Lucy Shephard ’23 were named the overall winning team. Nicholas Ramirez ’22 and Kimberly VanOpdorp ’22 took second place. Larmon was also named best oralist, and the best brief was submitted by Jordan Einhorn ’23 and Matthew Mason ’23.
Judges for the final round of competition on Nov. 6 were Dean Aviva Abramovsky and Professors Lucinda Finley and Anthony O'Rourke.
“The Desmond Moot Court Competition gave me the opportunity to experience something that most law students (and many young attorneys) seldom have the chance to do: argue a case before an appellate tribunal,” Larmon says. “My partner and I both grew more comfortable and confident as the rounds progressed. I am a better advocate for having competed in the Desmond and absolutely recommend the experience!”
“Competing in and winning the Desmond Moot Court Competition has been a major highlight of my law school journey so far,” Shephard says. “It was invaluable getting experience outside the classroom and testing out my brief writing and oral advocacy skills with my teammate. The competition taught me that I have a knack for and truly love oral argument. I hope to go into litigation after law school.”
The competition, organized by the student-run Buffalo Moot Court Board, was conducted virtually and streamed via Facebook. Canio Marasco ’22, president of the board, and Marc Cange ’22, vice president, were instrumental in the competition’s success.
November 20, 2021
Forty-eight UB Law students competed virtually in the school’s 22nd annual Representation in Mediation Competition, alternating in roles as client, attorney and mediator. Nearly 80 local attorneys and mediators volunteered to help judge the competition.
The victorious team comprised two second-year students, Eric Klementowski ’23 and Julia Rose ’23. Second place winners were Heather Bashaw ’22 and Shane Greene ’22.
"Few, if any, other law schools run an intramural mediation advocacy competition, especially of this size," says adjunct instructor Steven Sugarman, who directs UB Law’s alternative dispute resolution program and oversees the competition. “The legal community has been extremely supportive of our competition, probably due to the growing use of mediation by the courts, and privately, to resolve cases both before and during litigation,” Sugarman says. “Local lawyers tell me emphatically how valuable this program is for developing important lawyer problem-solving and advocacy skills.”
He notes that in legal practice, less than 10 percent of cases proceed to trial, which means lawyers spend the great majority of their time negotiating settlements. "Strong communication, negotiation and problem-solving skills are keys to maximizing your clients' goals and interests," he says. “Our mediation competition focuses on the development of these skills. This is cutting-edge. Law schools are realizing that these skills are critically important in the daily practice of law and arguably just as important as trial skills.”
For the competition, Rachel Vicario ’20 and Darian Wilkom ’20, who as students had great success in international mediation competitions, provided logistical and technical support, with the assistance of Skopinski.
UB Law also sent trial teams to three national competitions throughout the fall semester. Looking ahead, trial teams will be entered in more national competitions, currently scheduled to be in-person events. Skopinski reports, “We hope to have an appellate team compete in a national moot court competition, and a UB team will be competing in the 2022 Wechsler National Criminal Moot Court Competition that we are hosting in March.” In addition, she says, several mediation teams will compete in national and international competitions in the spring.