University of Mississippi School of Law’s Trial Advocacy brought home its first-ever national championship, defeating UCLA in the Florida National Trial Competition.
Hunter Bell, Anna Claire Brown, Carly Chinn and Todd Conklin competed on the UM Trial Ad team, where they took a case file and brought the issue all the way to trial. Trial competitions such as this one typically require 100-200 hours of preparation.
For this competition, the team of four advocates – two for prosecution, two for defense – reviewed the case file, formed a theory, analyzed witness materials, drafted direct examinations and cross examinations for each side, developed an opening statement and closing argument, and composed motions and pretrial matters.
After the materials are drafted and reviewed for issues, the team begins full trial practice. Recent UM Law alumnus Bryan Davis and former Trial Advocacy chair sat in on a few practices for the team to provide feedback. The intensive level of preparation is designed to mirror real life trial prep.
“Winning meant more than I can express,” said Brown, a 2022 graduate who is from Richton, Mississippi. “We knew the precedent we could set for not only our board, but also UM Law.”
She added that UM Law was the only team present at the competition without a coach, while most teams had two.
“Despite not having the resources the other schools had, we excelled,” she said. “In trial, I have learned that there is no replacement for hard work. We put in the hours, we worked cohesively as a team, and we won as a team.”
UM Law’s student advocacy boards have historically excelled. The Moot Court Board and Negotiation Boards have won fifteen national championships since 2011. Brown chose to join the Trial Advocacy Board because her goal is to litigate in the courtroom as an attorney when she graduates.
“I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity given to set my future self up for success,” Brown said. I believe the board has given me a great glimpse of what life after graduation could look like. Being a member of Trial Advocacy has allowed me to develop professionally while continually working on developing fundamental trial skills. It has molded me into a more well-rounded individual, which in turn has made me a better student and better advocate.”
The judges at the Florida National Trial agreed, and Brown was also named “Top Advocate” of the competition, which is awarded to the student with the highest score throughout the entire competition weekend.
“Not only is this an incredible accomplishment for me, but this is also a big accomplishment for the board and Ole Miss Law,” Brown said. “I’m a product of a lot of great people investing in me. I’m honored to have received this award, but it’s my teammates and great mentors that got me there.”
Though this is the board’s first national championship, it was only a matter of time as the board’s success has been building. There are 28 members on the board that compete across the nation against other institutions. Trial Advocacy teams have advanced this year to the national quarterfinals of George Mason’s Costello Competition and to the Regional Final of the National Trial Competition.
“We’ve progressed more and more with each competition, so it meant a lot to finally win it all,” said Bell, a 2022 graduate from DeFuniak Springs, Florida who also serves as chair of the board. “Being paired up against UCLA in the national championship round was definitely nerve-racking, but there’s no better feeling than representing Mississippi on a national stage and bringing that trophy back to Oxford.”
Rising 3L Carly Chinn, from Jackson, said her passion to pursue litigation is what brought her to law school, so she is thrilled to be able to hone her skills – even when she doubted herself.
“I have loved being involved with Trial Ad. We have a board that is so willing to help each other – and trust me, I needed a lot of it,” Chinn said.
When the team was formed, Chinn had the same feeling she had when trying out for the board – a little bit of imposter syndrome.
I just did not feel like I was ready,” she said. “I could not have done it without Hunter and Anna Claire’s encouragement and guidance. I was so proud to represent Mississippi on a national scale, and I know that we have the potential to grow into a powerhouse trial school.