Top Gun Gets $10,000 in Winner-Take-All Mock Trial Competition, June 2-6

May 17, 2010

Baylor Law School Creates First-of-its-Kind Tournament Focusing on Trial Advocacy

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Baylor Law School is known throughout the nation for its intensely rigorous trial advocacy program. Now, 16 other law schools in the nation will experience the same type of rigor during the first week in June - with one winner emerging as the nation's Top Gun.

Baylor Law will conduct the first-ever Top Gun Mock Trial Competition, a new mock trial tournament unlike any other in the nation. A single student will represent each school, instead of the usual two; participants will not receive the details of the mock case they will argue until a mere 24 hours before the competition begins; and the winner will be awarded $10,000.

The competition is sponsored by the law firm Naman Howell Smith and Lee, PLLC, which has offices in the Texas cities of Austin, Fort Worth, Harker Heights, Temple and Waco. Organizers say the event was designed to provide a venue for schools with strong trial advocacy programs to go head-to-head with one another. Baylor, as the organizing institution, will not field a team.

"We saw a need for a new type of competition that provides a forum to see the very best mock trial competitors," said Gerald Powell, the Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence at Baylor Law School. "The Top Gun Mock Trial Competition gives law students the chance to go up against the very best of their peers, and gives all of us an opportunity to see the most experienced and talented law students in the country."

The tournament is limited to 16 law schools. Competing will be Akron University, Barry University, Chicago-Kent School of Law, Denver School of Law, Fordham University, Georgetown University, Loyola University-Chicago, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, Northern Kentucky University, Pepperdine University, Samford University, South Texas College of Law, Stetson University, Suffolk University, Temple University and Washington University.

"Demand for a spot in the tournament is high," said Practice Court Associate Jessica Casenave, who has been helping to organize the event. "We have had to turn entrants away and compile a wait list."

The participating law schools are, like Baylor, known for their trial advocacy programs. In April, Baylor Law's trial advocacy program ranked fourth in the nation in U.S. News and World Report's 2011 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools." Last year, the Baylor Law Trial Advocacy program ranked seventh.

Such programs give law students real-world experience and foster excellence in legal practice, teaching students to serve clients. At Baylor, this emphasis permeates the entire three-year curriculum. "Students learn not only how to try cases in a real world setting, but they also learn the law of procedure and evidence, which are the foundations of trial advocacy," said Powell, who also serves as director of Baylor Law's renowned Practice Court program.

Participants will arrive Wednesday, June 2, for check-in and an opening reception. Thursday, June 3, will be devoted to preparing the civil case they will try. In addition to preparing their opening and closing statements and witness examinations, students also will visit relevant sites of the fictional dispute.

"Giving the details of the case just 24 hours before the competition begins means the student participants must be on top of their game," Powell said.

Preliminary rounds will be held Friday, June 4, with trial lawyers and sitting judges serving as competition judges. Eight teams will then advance to the elimination rounds on Saturday, June 5, with the final round set for Sunday, June 6. The Honorable Priscilla Owen, judge on the United State Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, will preside over the finals.

The competition will be held in Baylor's Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center. Spectators are advised that seating is limited. For information, contact the Baylor Top Gun Mock Trial Competition.

News Media Contact: Julie Carlson, Baylor Law School Director of Communications and Marketing, (254) 710-6681