The 2015 National Board of Trial Advocacy Tournament of Champions semi-final and final rounds took place at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis last weekend. The three-day invitational tournament pits the trial advocacy teams from the 16 law schools with the top winning records in national trial advocacy competitions averaged over the last three years against one another. The mock trial problem this year, aptly named “Thriller at the River,” involved a condensed version of the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014. The winner of the tournament was Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. Second place was taken by Georgetown University Law Center.
The 16 competing law schools were Baylor, Campbell, Chicago-Kent, Georgetown, Loyola Los Angeles, Loyola Chicago, Notre Dame, Samford, Cumberland, Stetson, Suffolk, Syracuse, Temple, University of Akron, University of Colorado, Washington University in St. Louis and Yale.
The final round presiding judge was Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C.’s founding partner and National Board of Trial Advocacy President David E. Rapoport, a practicing trial lawyer from Chicago.
In a keynote speech Friday night before the semi-final round, Mr. Rapoport told the students and their coaches, “Everyone wins in a tournament like this. You are the top trial advocacy law students in the country and we are proud of you.” Impressed by what he witnessed as presiding judge in a 4th round mock trial on Friday, Mr. Rapoport drew applause when he promised to share his observations next week with the more than 2,000 NBTA board certified trial lawyers. Mr. Rapoport said he would encourage NBTA board certified lawyers to build “opportunity bridges” for trial advocacy students because, “The legal profession should move toward residencies and fellowships or their functional equivalents, for the benefit of the public.” Mr. Rapoport added, “The medical profession is way ahead of us in organized specialty training programs and the time has come for the legal profession to close the gap.”
The National Board of Trial Advocacy, a nonprofit organization, is the only national board certification program accredited by the American Bar Association to issue board certifications for attorneys in trial advocacy. As such, it is the ideal sponsor for the Tournament of Champions, because it is well-postured to help trial advocacy law students grow in their specialty after they are licensed.