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Jessup moot court team finds success at international competition

Friday, April 26, 2013

Taking advantage of KU Law’s sixth trip in the last 15 years to the international finals of the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, a team of KU Law students placed among the top 30 teams in the world in early April in Washington, D.C.

Team members Matthew Agnew, Sam Barton, Lauren Pearce, Jane Li and Isabel Segarra finished 24th out of 110 teams, and fourth among all American teams for their written memorial. Both Barton and Pearce also received honors for their oral advocacy skills, coming in 79th and 87th place, respectively.

“The actual competition was intense,” said Pearce, a third-year law student. “The judges were all experts in their respective fields, and we had to learn how to say ‘I don't know’ in a respectful way that wouldn't defeat our position – Jessup was a long journey, but also the most gratifying experience I've had in law school.”

The Jessup competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial body of the United Nations. This year’s competition required students to argue both sides of a fictional case involving the consequences of climate change on statehood, migration and sovereign lending. John Head, the Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law, served as the team’s coach, and Professor Elizabeth Kronk accompanied the team to D.C. for the finals.

“In my opinion, the Jessup international competition is the hardest of all the moot court competitions open to American law students, as the quality of judging and competing teams is superb,” Kronk said.

Jessup is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from over 550 law schools in more than 80 countries. In total, 127 American law schools battled in the regional competitions, including many prestigious schools like Columbia, NYU, Georgetown, University of Chicago, and Harvard. Only 12 of those schools, including KU Law, advanced to the international competition, putting KU Law’s team in the top 10 percent of American Jessup moot court programs this year.

“For over 20 years I have been stressing to our Jessup teams the long-term importance of the experience they’ll get in learning about brief writing, so I’m thrilled to see the team members getting these high accolades for their excellence in this portion of the Jessup program,” Head said.

KU Law’s achievement is special in another way: According to Professor Raj Bhala, KU Law is one of only two American law schools with teams who advanced to the international finals of both Jessup and the European Law Students Association (ELSA) competitions in the same year.

Although students are competing at the highest level, they’re also getting an unprecedented opportunity to meet their peers from around the globe -- and that experience is equally memorable.  

“We made friends with the team from Gambia, shared drinks with the Afghan team and the Iraqi coach, danced with Bahamians,” Pearce said. “When people speak of the ‘Jessup family’ they're not joking. We’ve all shared this experience in our respective homes, so there's an immediate bond.”