Trial Advocacy Team Wraps Up Season with Win

December 2, 2009

Members of the National Trial Advocacy Team wrapped up their fall season with a win in the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Regional Tournament in Washington D.C. last month.

mock trial
From left: Andrew Bentz, Sara Clingan, John Heath, Saira Karim-Najam

The team of captain Saira Karim-Najam '10, Andrew Bentz '12, Sara Clingan '12 and John Heath '11 beat 12 other teams, including William and Mary in the final round.

In October, Rachel Mossman '12 led a team to victory at the Peter James Johnson '49 National Civil Rights Trial Competition in New York along with teammates Travis McGivern '10 and Matthew Davie, an exchange student.

Karim-Najam said mock trial competitions are exhilarating, terrifying and an incomparable training ground for any student interested in litigation.

"It's the most adrenaline and the best feeling in the world when you try a case, " she said. "Everything is real: real judges, real rules of evidence and real case law."

Karim-Najam said she wished more students knew of this opportunity for extramural competition.

"There are so many things that only experience can teach you, " she said. "There's no real-world 'what makes a jury like you' class. You just can't learn this from a book, you really can't."

Although team members had not met prior to training for the event, they worked very well together, Heath said.

"We were successful because each of us brought a passion for litigation and zealous advocacy to the team and worked hard, " he said.

Saira Karim-Najam

Karim-Najam said preparation and composure were the most important keys to victory.

"We really thought about how to present these cases and this really stuck out from other teams, as well as our composure — the way we made objections, the way we approached witnesses and [our] use of exhibits, " she said.

Karim-Najam credits the skills she has garnered to the "meticulous" training she received in the Black Law Students Association's six-month mock trial program.

"Mock trial is more of an art to me than it's a science, " said Karim-Najam. "There's no faster way to lose than to lose your composure."

The team will compete in the national competition in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 30-31, Karim-Najam said.

"We've come this far, we don't want to lose now."

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