Skip to main content

TJSL National Trial Team Competes in AAJ Advocacy Competition in Santa Monica

April 2, 2015

By Leanne Wilder, 3L, Mock Trial Team Member

The TJSL National Trial team sent 8 competitors to the American Association for Justice Student Advocacy Competition being held in Santa Monica, California from March 19-21.

The competitors were divided into 2 teams of four. Team K included: Ravi Mohan, Kierre Coghill, Jessica McCracken, Leanne Wilder.

Team L included: James White, Precious Harrison-Cobb, Katie Denson, and Leo Fuentes. All of the competitors are 3Ls. The fact pattern concerned a very relevant and dangerous topic, one that today’s drivers encounter all too often: texting while driving.

Both teams spent 2 months preparing for the three grueling days of back-to-back competition rounds. White and Harrison-Cobb, Defense counsel, represented Team L in the first round on Thursday night. Harrison-Cobb felt, “that we gave it all we had, and that we really showed our advocacy skills and our personalities, Leo and Katie could not have been better witnesses.”

Mohan and Wilder, Plaintiff’s counsel, represented Team K against Pepperdine. Mohan conducted a succinct and highly praised direct examination of the team’s expert witness, played by McCracken. Wilder delivered a passionate closing argument, helping make the round a close call.

Denson and Fuentes headed into round 2 as plaintiff’s counsel for Team L, with a brand new theme suggested by judges the night before. While Mohan and Wilder competed a second time, it was McCracken and Coghill who dominated for team K, collecting all three votes in their favor against Santa Clara in the third round. McCracken raved, “our last round was nothing short of exhilarating–the months of preparation all finally came together and our hard work paid off with a unanimous win!”

For seven of the eight members AAJ was the last competition they will compete in. “This was my fourth and last competition”, said Ms. McCracken, “and I am so glad I got to do it with my longtime teammates! We fought the good fight together and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience.” Her fellow teammates could not agree more, making this competition a bittersweet ending for the May graduates.

The countless hours spent preparing created strong bonds between the team members, but more importantly, the trial team earned valuable practical knowledge in the area of products liability. Fuentes expressed the bonds between the members when he said, “we were side by side and had each other’s back as we went into courtroom battle.” Not only were bonds made between fellow teammates but, Trial Team Captain Kierre Coghill points out the benefits of networking and knowing that “every extra hour of practice has been worth having the experience to rub elbows with so many trial attorneys and to get a taste of how hard they work.”

The AAJ committee provided a night of networking with local attorneys and the judges scoring during the first two rounds. It was a great opportunity to interact with a wide range of attorneys in the Los Angeles area.

TJSL competed against Pepperdine, USD, UC Davis, Santa Clara, and Chapman University. With a brutal cut down to only 4 teams after the third round; both TJSL teams were proud to not be far behind the top four teams, but ultimately did not advance to the semi-final round.

Harrison-Cob said it best when looking at the life experience taken away from participating in competitions like AAJ and being a Mock Trial Team Member, “No judges’ scoring dictates our ability or who we are, nor does being labeled a winner. We worked our hardest and that’s something that cannot be taken away from us, win or lose.”