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National Trial Competition team reaches regional finals

(Boston, 2/11/13) New England Law | Boston:  New England Law | Boston’s National Trial Competition team of Leigh Ann Johnson ’13 and Sara Peeling ’13 demonstrated advanced advocacy skills under pressure in this month’s regional competition, finishing as runner-up among 20 teams from ten law schools. Their strong performances bode well for their success as future trial attorneys.

Moot team and coaches (L-R): Hon. Gerald Alch, Leigh Ann Johnson '13, Professor Victor Hansen, Sara Peeling '13, Tyler Ence '07
Teams considered a hypothetical murder case involving issues of forensic investigation and the insanity defense. A presiding judge and a panel of practicing attorneys evaluated and scored the performances of each team member. 
 
“This is a trial-level competition in which students develop and demonstrate important advocacy skills such as opening and closing statements, examining and cross-examining witnesses, and applying the rules of evidence,” said Professor Victor Hansen, who teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, and Prosecutorial Ethics. He co-coached the team with two adjunct professors:  Hon. Gerald Alch (retired), an attorney with Lewis | Leeper and the former first justice of the Dedham District Court, and Tyler Ence ’07, who practices in Agawam, MA. 
 
“Over the four days, each team tried the case three times, changing sides each time,” noted Hansen. “Advocates must master and effectively advocate both sides of the case, thinking on their feet and becoming very agile in their arguments.”
 
New England Law participates annually in the National Trial Competition, which was established in 1975 to encourage and strengthen students' advocacy skills through quality competition and valuable interaction with members of the bench and bar. 
Johnson and Peeling entered the final round as the top-seeded team and ultimately claimed second place.
 
“It was an incredible experience,” said Johnson. “We took a case from start to finish much as you would in the real world.  We had to develop theories, motions in limine, direct examinations, cross examinations, openings, and closings for both sides of the case.”
 
These skills are precisely the ones that will make students “practice-ready attorneys” when they leave law school, according to Hansen.
 
“I understand now the trial process and the strategy behind it, as well as the finesse and polish necessary to really try a great case,” said Peeling. “There is no doubt in my mind that I will carry the skills and techniques our coaches have taught us with me throughout my career.”
 
More immediately, Johnson believes that the experience will benefit her in her current internship with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
 
The law school sponsors several teams that compete in regional and national advocacy events. Team membership is generally open to upper-level students, and coaching sessions are conducted several times a week in the run-up to a moot competition. 
 
Highlights from recent years include the Negotiation Team, which vaulted to the national level in only its second year of existence (2012); the Tax Moot Court team, which in 2012 won the first runner-up Best Brief award and finished as a quarterfinalist overall and won the national competition in 2010; and the Client Counseling Competition team, which achieved a second-place finish in 2012.


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