News & Events

Posted April 24, 2008

Students Enjoy Record Year in Advocacy Competitions

(From left) Megan Strand, Wenhong You, Jonathan Ware, and Caitlin Stapleton (John Beckett not pictured) won the best U.S. brief at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition's International Round in Washington, D.C.
(From left) Megan Strand, Wenhong You, Jonathan Ware, Caitlin Stapleton and John Beckett (not pictured) won the Best U.S. Brief award at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition's International Round in Washington, D.C.

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Contact: Rob Seal

This was the most successful academic year ever for Law School students in national advocacy competitions, according to a tally by student organizers.

“It’s absolutely by far been the best year UVA has ever had,” said third-year law student Jonathan Ware, who is vice-chair of the Law School’s extramural moot court organization.

Nearly 80 students participated in extramural moot court and mock trial competitions, while almost 200 competed in the internal William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition.

Law students Megan Strand, Wenhong You, Jonathan Ware, Caitlin Stapleton and John Beckett wrote a brief that earned first place among U.S. competitors in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition International Round and third place overall. The team also was a finalist in the Super Regional Round, where the team won third place for their brief. The Jessup contest is the world's largest moot court competition, with participants from over 500 law schools in more than 80 countries.

In total, students took home 26 honors in competitions against other schools, up from 15 last year and only four in the year before. Ware attributed the success to several factors, including organizational improvements, student coaches and a new Web site.

 “We’ve done a better job of trying to institutionalize what we provide,” he said.

This year, students created an extramural board that included student coaches, and also reached out to local attorneys to help coach the teams. For the second year, coaches from the Judge Advocate General’s School assisted competitors. Extramural moot court competitions focus on appellate advocacy.

The board also created an updated handbook covering areas such as brief writing and competition structure, a revision that Ware said was long overdue. 

“The Moot Court Board made a handbook in 1969, or 1970, and it hadn’t been revised since then,” he said.

Many of this year’s accolades came despite the fact that UVA students often compete against students from schools with programs in which participation counts for academic credit, Ware said.

“Students do a tremendous, amazing job, against these schools that really make [the competitions] an institutional thing and go out there with the mentality that ‘This is how we want to make our name as a law school,’ as well as against our peer law schools, the Harvards and the Columbias.”

Virginia also allows first-year students to compete in extramural competitions, though many schools reserve that right for second- and third-years.

Ware said allowing first-year students to participate helps increase the institutional knowledge of the advocacy programs, which are traditionally run largely by third-year students.



Many of the first-year students took advantage of the opportunity. One, Jonathan Wolfson, beat out 49 other competitors to win Best Oralist at the William B. Spong Invitational Moot Court Tournament at the College of William and Mary.

“I think that’s a huge benefit to be able to get that experience as soon as you get in the door,” said Wolfson, who argued a voter identification case similar to one recently taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wolfson said the competition gave him an opportunity to analyze both sides of the issue, as participants were required to argue multiple positions.

“You realize that in a lot of ways you’re learning to be a lawyer in a really practical way when you are in the competition process,” he said.



Stephen Anthony, a second-year law student who was named Best Oralist at the National Black Law Students Association’s Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition, also said he benefited from the hands-on learning opportunities presented by the advocacy competitions.

“I think overall it was a good experience in applying legal knowledge in a way that a lot of students don’t get a chance to do,” Anthony said. “I think especially if you are not a person who’s into the theoretical type of things, mock trial and moot court are good avenues to give you some advantages.”

Ware said the board’s goals are to continue to encourage faculty contributions, increase attention to coaching and brief writing — students have earned just two brief awards in the past two years, compared to 14 oralist awards — and to expand and develop oral advocacy workshops.

“I find it the most rewarding experience I’ve done in law school,” he said of his own participation in extramural competitions.

Here’s a list of this year’s winners: 

In extramural appellate advocacy:

In mock trial:

In other law-related competitions:

Lile Competition: