KU students advance to national finals in transactional law competition

Friday, March 07, 2014

LAWRENCE – A team of University of Kansas School of Law students will compete in the finals of the National Transactional LawMeet next month after winning at the Chicago regional round.

The law school fielded two teams in the competition, which offers a moot court experience for aspiring transactional lawyers. Jay Berryman, of Meade, and Kevin Wempe, of Topeka, won for the buyer’s side in Chicago, and Anna Kimbrell, of Lawrence, and Rachel Martin, of Kansas City, Mo., earned the prize for best overall draft agreement at the Midwestern regional in Kansas City.

This is the first year KU has participated in the competition.

“The LawMeet’s drafting and negotiation process is very reflective of what corporate attorneys do in practice, so this experience is invaluable to me and one that most transactional attorneys did not have the opportunity to engage in while in law school,” said Berryman, who will graduate in May, then begin his career practicing corporate transactional law at Polsinelli PC in Kansas City, Mo.

Teams were assigned to represent either buyers or sellers of a business and were required to draft an agreement covering a disputed issue, mark up the opposing side’s counterdraft and negotiate a resolution. Teams from 84 law schools met at seven regional sites last Friday to conduct the negotiations. Two teams from each region (one buyer and one seller) advanced to the final round to be held April 3-4 in New York. 

“The negotiations were very professional,” said Wempe, who is set to graduate in May and will work in public finance with Gilmore & Bell PC in Kansas City, Mo. “We decided beforehand we would avoid being adversarial, if possible, and instead take the approach that we were there to facilitate our client’s wishes and move the transaction forward rather than bicker with the opposition.”

Competition judges evaluate which team most adeptly combines its lawyering skills, drafting, marking-up and negotiating techniques with their knowledge of corporate and other facets of business law and business sense to develop innovative solutions to negotiate a draft agreement.

For its Chicago victory, KU bested teams from the University of Colorado, Ohio State University, Temple University, Northwestern University and elsewhere.

KU law alumni Ken Lynn, Class of 1981, and Kelley Sears, Class of 1974, coached the teams in preparation for the competition, with assistance from Webb Hecker, professor of law.

KU law students win top brief at North American international environmental moot court competition

Friday, February 07, 2014

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas Law students Jon Simpson and Matt Huntsman are the latest to join the school’s legacy of success in international moot court activities. The pair brought home top honors for their written brief at the North American rounds of the Stetson International Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, which was Jan. 24-26 in Denver.

“Their oral advocacy was strong, they learned a lot, and they met interesting colleagues at several other law schools,” KU Law professor and team coach John Head said. “And of course I’m thrilled at the success they enjoyed with their written submission. It’s a fine achievement, and I’m over-the-top pleased for them and proud of their work.”

Teams from the University of Kansas and the Bahamas gathered in Denver for the North American competition, which focused on international, environmental and human rights law. Wake Forest, the University of Maryland, Pepperdine and American University were among the participants, with the University of Hawaii and the University of California-Hastings advancing to the international rounds and KU’s brief named the best of the competition.

Simpson, of Wichita, and Huntsman, of Sherman, Texas, spent five months preparing for the event. As newcomers to the field, they did extensive research. “I literally had to start from scratch and work my way through various treaties, articles and books,” Huntsman said. “It probably worked to my advantage. Had we dealt with a more familiar area of law, I doubt I would have taken the time to approach every issue in such a thorough way.”

Huntsman and Simpson credit their faculty mentors with their success and are confident that the skills gained through the competition will serve them well in their future careers. “More than anything, I credit the Stetson competition for providing me the opportunity to refine my advocacy skills.”  Simpson said. “But I also appreciate the experience for exposing me to new areas of law.”

Currently in its 18th year, the Stetson International Environmental Law moot court competition features schools from all over the world. This year’s theme focused on sea turtle protection and cultural practices, challenging participants to consider the legal implications of pitting indigenous people’s rights against protection of endangered species.

Simpson and Huntsman continue a strong KU tradition of excellence in national and international moot court competition. Jayhawks brought home top honors for their briefs at the Herbert Wechsler National Criminal Law Moot Court Competition and Mardi Gras Sports Law Competition in 2012. Last year KU Law became one of only two American law schools to advance teams to the finals of both the European Law Students Association and the Jessup  International Law Moot Court Competition in the same year.

KU Law students participate in an in-house moot court competition during their second year of law school, with top performers representing KU at national and international competitions during their third year.

KU Law team reaches finals of international moot court competition

Thursday, May 30, 2013

LAWRENCE — A team of third-year students once again proved the University of Kansas School of Law’s moot court mettle on the highest stage, placing 15th in the world at the WTO International Moot Court Competition.

From left: Bruno Simoes, Jade Martin, Ryan Thornton and Matthew O’Neill.For the second time in five years, a KU Law team advanced to the world finals of the competition, held this year from April 30 to May 5 in Geneva at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization. Team captain Bruno Simões, of Lawrence; Ryan Thornton, of Sapulpa, Okla; Jade Martin, Rose Hill; and Matthew O'Neill, Tecumseh, represented the university, facing off against 20 other top teams from around the globe.

“The competition was wonderful,” Simoes said. “There is not much room for error in this competition, but that's also part of what makes it exciting. For me, it was certainly one of the most rewarding and worthwhile activities I did as a law student.”

KU Law’s team initially placed 12th, but recalculated scores after the competition had concluded placed the team at their final ranking.

To reach the finals, the KU Law team had to qualify in a competitive regional round that included teams from Harvard, Queen’s University and American University. After advancing to the semifinals in Costa Rica, they had just over a month to prepare for the final round. They spent that time strengthening their argument around this year’s moot court problem, which involved currency manipulation and discriminatory preferences in banking.

“The moot court problem this year was especially complex and contentious,” said team coach Raj Bhala, the associate dean for international and comparative law and Rice Distinguished Professor. “Just grappling with these issues, much less arguing about them cogently, showed the professional sophistication and maturity of the Jayhawk trade team.”

Although the experience was demanding, the rewards made the effort worthwhile. Once again, the students met and received feedback from top-tier judges, including former WTO officials. They took time to sightsee and visited a number of prominent organizations in Geneva, enjoyed the local cuisine, and socialized and networked with the other teams, coaches, and lawyers. Perhaps most importantly, they attended a WTO career panel and interviewed for international positions, and Simoes landed a job with a prominent international trade law firm in Brussels, FratiniVergano.

“The competition is much more highly regarded outside of the U.S., so if you're thinking of working abroad, it is definitely an activity in which you should try to take part,” he said.

The competition, a simulated hearing in the World Trade Organization dispute settlement system, is sponsored by the European Law Students Association (ELSA), the largest independent law students association in the world.

It has been an outstanding year for KU Law moot court teams in international competition. Earlier this spring, the Jessup International Law Moot Court team competed in the world finals in Washington, D.C., where they placed in the top 30. KU Law is one of only two schools in the country to advance moot court teams to the finals of both the WTO and Jessup competitions.

Students represent KU in Moot Court Competition

Joining Harvard, American and Queens Universities, four School of Law graduate students will represent the University of Kansas in Geneva next month.

“It’s no more of a surprise [to see KU Law listed amongst these prestigious universities] than it should be to see Kansas Jayhawks in the final four of the NCAA tournament,” said Raj Bhala, an Associate Dean with the School of Law. “We’re a darn good law school and have a darn good international and comparative law program.”

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