Law Students Get Out of the Classroom and Into the Courtroom

Posted on February 9, 2010

By Matthew Liebman, ALDF attorney

This past weekend, law students from around the country converged on Harvard Law School to compete in the National Animal Law Competitions, put on by the Center for Animal Law Studies. ALDF helped fund the competition and provided travel grants that enabled students to attend. Our attorneys drafted the problems for both the moot court and closing argument problems and served as judges. The competitions featured three separate events that gave students an opportunity to hone their legal skills and receive feedback from experts and practitioners in the field of animal law. 

The Moot Court Competition replicates the appellate advocacy experience, providing competitors with a case that they must brief and argue. This year’s problem centered on a fictional round-up of wild horses by the Bureau of Land Management. Competitors wrote briefs on behalf of either the government or the horse advocates, then argued the case before a panel of three judges (a few of which were actual judges). I had the privilege of judging four rounds, and I was impressed by the intelligence and skill of the competitors. As a former competitor (my partner and I won the competition in 2006), I know how challenging it can be, but I can also attest to the unique value of the experience.  The competition is an unrivaled opportunity for students who are interested in animal law to get out of the classroom and into the courtroom (fictional though it may be). 

Whereas the Moot Court Competition gives students a taste of appellate litigation, the Closing Argument Competition simulates trial-level litigation. Students are given a trial record, which consists of a transcript, evidence, and jury instructions, and from these construct a twenty-minute closing argument to present to a jury composed of animal law practitioners and professors. This year’s competition centered on a criminal prosecution for dog fighting. Although my judging the Moot Court Competition prevented me from watching any of the closing arguments, reports of the students’ performances were overwhelmingly positive. 

The Legislative Drafting and Lobbying Competition gives students a taste of the legislative process, which presents challenges and opportunities different from those encountered by litigators. Students are provided with the problem, a legislation guide, profiles of fictional legislators, and supporting fact sheets. From these materials they must draft a law addressing the issue, then lobby legislators to convince them to support the draft law. Experts in animal legislation serve as the legislators. This year students were asked to draft and lobby for federal legislation prohibiting the use of battery cages for egg-laying hens, gestation crates for female pigs, and veal crates for calves. 

Thanks to all the participants for dedicating their time to these competitions. And congratulations to the winners:

Appellate Moot Court Competition

Winner: Angelina Zon & Joseph Grant, Florida Coastal School of Law
2nd Place: Mark Billingsley & Bryan Telegin, Lewis & Clark Law School
Semi-Finalist Teams: Rexena Napier & Lauren Bean, University of Louisville, Brandeis School of Law and Tara Kinman & John Verheul, University of New Mexico School of Law
Best Brief (Winner): Annie Beck & David Louie, South Texas School of Law
Best Brief Finalist (2nd Place): Angelina Zon & Joseph Grant, Florida Coastal School of Law
Best Oralist: Nicholas Hudson, University of Washington School of Law

Closing Argument Competition
Winner: Anthony Sam, The John Marshall Law School (Chicago)
2nd Place: Erin Walkowiak, Lewis & Clark Law School
Finalists: Donyel Perry, The John Marshall Law School (Chicago) and Robyn Katz, Texas Tech School of Law

Legislative Drafting & Lobbying Competition
Winner: Eric Barker, George Washington University Law School
2nd Place: Lily Becker, University of Chicago Law School
Finalist: Rebecca Glenn, Temple University, Beasley School of Law

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