National Trial Team Advanced to Semifinal Round

Monday, February 26, 2007

Denise Abrams, Ernest Calderon, and Nik Rankin advanced to the semifinal round of the National Trial Competition in Boulder, Colorado.

Denise Abrams, Ernest Calderon, and Nik Rankin advanced to the semifinal round of the National Trial Competition in Boulder, Colorado.  They took on top-ranked teams from Nebraska as well as Oklahoma City University in preliminary rounds.  They were narrowly defeated in the semifinal round by New Mexico, which took 1st Place (Regional Champion) in the competition. Tulsa developed a reputation in the competition for  dominant courtroom presence and well-crafted legal arguments.

TU’s second team of Brandon Burris, Alberto Franco, and Sara Smith sparred with Creighton University and South Dakota in preliminary rounds.  They were eliminated after their third round against the same 1st Place New Mexico team.

The National Trial Competition is perhaps the largest mock trial program in this country.  Over 1,200 students come from 160 ABA approved schools from across the country.  TU has done extremely well in the competition, winning its regional twice in the last five years.  The school has had two very strong showings at the national competition as well.

The National Trial Competition is the most advanced and realistic mock trial competition available.  Students research legal issues and present motions in limine before the trial begins.  Unlike most competitions, students are given only fifteen minutes to prepare their witnesses to testify.  Students are not allowed to tell witnesses what to say, but must be extremely flexible and ready for anything that happens.  Students direct and cross examine witnesses, give opening statements and closing argument, and make accurate and timly objections throughout the trial.

Students learn “real life trial advocacy skills,” and “no other program can teach that,”  team coach Marvin Lizama said.  “TU students come out of the classroom ready to go directly into the courtroom,” Professor and team coach Robert Fitz-Patrick said.  “That isn’t often the case elsewhere.”  As a professor and a shareholder at local firm Hall Estill, Fitz-Patrick values the quality of graduates who have passed through the program. Students who compete in the school’s mock trial competitions “learn their craft, and learn it well.”

Lizama himself is an example of the trial program’s success.  He competed in the ATLA and National Trial programs and won the regional competition before accepting a position with litigation powerhouse Brewster & Deangelis.  Lizama begin litigating cases at the firm immediately after passing the bar.  “Our National Trial teams have achieved tremendous success,” Lizama said,  “and we are very proud of that.”