Third-year University of Virginia School of Law students Tuba Ahmed and Kyle Cole found their differences offered the right combination of strengths to win the 88th William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition held Saturday.

Ahmed also won the Stephen Pierre Traynor Award for best oralist.

The competition, held annually, starts with a field of about 80 students in two-person teams, writing briefs and arguing student-written problems in a mock federal appeal. Over the course of the participants' second and third years, the field is whittled until two teams meet in the final round. During this year's finale, Ahmed and Cole defeated fellow third-year students Danielle Desaulniers and Adam Stempel. The four finalists received the James M. Shoemaker Jr. Moot Court Award. The winning team takes home the Kingdon Moot Court Prize.

Ahmed and Cole have known each other since their first year, and both are former paralegals. (Ahmed worked for two years at Morrison & Foerster, and Cole for three years at Skadden.)

Despite that similarity, the students found they had different personalities and approaches — but their differences harmonized.

“Kyle regularly made me walk through arguments from their foundation,” Ahmed said. “I would come in with an idea that I had thought of the night before, and he would help me to examine its impact on every aspect of our overall argument. He thought of every potential hurdle we would need to overcome within seconds of hearing the idea and then he helped me craft answers to those hurdles.”  

Ahmed helped Cole solve the opposite problem. “I would be lost in the details of some issue, wandering down multiple different paths and trying to make multiple arguments. Tuba would sit me down and force me to answer one question: ‘What is the central idea you are actually trying to communicate?’” 

Cole said Ahmed’s approach became their guide.

“Tuba’s ability to instantly distill an issue into a simple narrative was the lynchpin of our success in the competition,” he said.

The competition's problem, written by fellow third-year student Kevin Palmer, involved a scenario in which the U.S. Congress has amended the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prohibit voter discrimination on the basis of "belief," in addition to race, color and language minority status. A fictional lawsuit is challenging a gerrymandered state district map on the basis of this modified version of the act.

In this round, there were two questions: Was the plaintiff in the case the right plaintiff under the Constitution? And does the word "belief" include political beliefs, or is it confined to religious beliefs?

Presiding were Judge Patricia Millett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Pamela Reeves of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee and Justice David Stras of the Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Both students credited their externship experiences with helping them develop stronger writing and speaking skills.

An Alexandria, Virginia, native and James Madison University graduate, Ahmed externed in the White House Counsel's Office during the fall. She will work at the London office of Latham & Watkins after law school.

Cole, who is from Hailey, Idaho, externed in the fall with Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. After graduation, he will work at Cleary, Gottlieb's Washington, D.C., office. Cole is a graduate of George Washington University.

Third-year students Andrew Manns, Marc Nowak and Michele Trichler coached the winning duo.

In addition to the Lile Moot Court Competition, UVA Law students also compete in other appellate moot court and trial advocacy competitions nationwide.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.