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UK College of Law Hosted Regionals of National Trial Competition

student participating in trial competition

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 12, 2015) – Law students from thirteen different law schools and four different states made the trip to Lexington to compete for a chance to participate in the National Trial Competition, the most prestigious trial competition in the nation. The University of Kentucky College of Law and the Kentucky Chapter of the American College of Trial Lawyers co-hosted the regional competition at the Fayette District and Circuit Courthouses Feb. 6-8.

The National Trial Competition, sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers and Texas Young Lawyers Association, was created in 1975 as a way for students to strengthen their skills as well as interact with established members of the bench and bar. The program gives students a way to learn more about the nature of trial practice and increase their overall education in law.

The five round competition involved twenty-six teams of two to three students. Each trial was judged and scored by a panel of at least three attorneys or judges. The students were evaluated on their opening and closing arguments and their direct and cross-examinations. The mock trials also included 180 law school witnesses who prepped in advance of the trial competition by memorizing statements and meeting with their advocates. The University of Kentucky Trial Team entered the final round undefeated but lost on ballots to the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.  Washington University, St. Louis also advanced to Nationals.  John Phillips, founding partner of Phillips Parker Oberson & Arnett, PLC, commented on the exceptional level of talent displayed during this year’s competition, “Susan [Phillips] and I have judged in many Regional Competitions and the last five National Finals and this year’s Lexington Region included several teams which would have been competitive in the National Finals.  It’s a real shame that only two teams could advance.”

In all, over 150 lawyers and judges scored the students, including twenty members from the American College of Trial Lawyers such as John and Susan Phillips, Charles English, Pat Patterson, James Crawford, Joe Savage, and Rick Straub.  The semi-finals and finals were judged by Supreme Court Justice Michelle Keller, Court of Appeals Judge Denise Clayton, Circuit Court Judge Pamela Goodwine and Federal District Court Judge Karen Caldwell. Federal Judges Joe Hood and Gregory van Tatenhove judged the finals.  Ms. Phillips stated, “The quality of the judges in the Lexington Region—including 8 current or retired members of Kentucky’s highest courts—exceeded that of any of the other 15 Regions held throughout the country, and quite possibly of the National Finals as well.”

Professor Allison Connelly, the competition director and coach of UK’s team said, “Students who know how to represent a real client with excellence, in a real trial setting, helps us fulfill our role as an outstanding law school that graduates practice ready lawyers.  Our trial teams have achieved an incredible level of success but the real success story is what these advocates do with their talent and skill when they graduate; they change lives, one case at a time.”   

The National Trial Competition hosts over 150 law schools and 1,000 law students from 14 regions. Kentucky is part of the 11th region which includes, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. Regional competitions are held to see which two teams from the nation's 26 regions will go on to compete for the national championship. The University of Kentucky College of Law was second in the nation in 2009 and UK law graduate, Chris Schaffer, was named the best advocate in the country.  The National Trial Competition will be held in Houston, Texas, March 11-15, 2015.