For the third time in the last five years, UMKC has a team advancing to nationals in National Trial Competition. The team of Blake Smith, Jackson Hobbs, and Andrew Hendrick were the regional winners of the National Trial Competition held in St. Louis. Hobbs is a second year law student at UMKC, whereas Hendrick and Smith are both third year law students. They will travel to Fort Worth, TX from March 22-25, to compete at the National Tournament.
The competition, established in 1975, aims to strengthen and encourage students’ advocacy skills through competition and interaction with bench and bar members. By participating in the competition law students are exposed to the nature of trial practice and adds to their educational experience.
Smith pointed out that everyone is trying their best to persuade the jury in the competition like this, but the art form of advocacy is knowing how to ask the right questions. In the final round of the regional competition, the UMKC team competed against the University of Kentucky College of Law. The theoretical case was a criminal case where the defendant was accused of heroin possession. The case appeared to be pro-defense, according to Hobbs. However, the three team members’ strategy worked, and throughout the competition, they never lost prosecution.
Currently, the team members are preparing for the national tournament. The criminal case centers around the state charging a recycle plant owner for an accident that happened on the site due to a hazardous working environment. Smith says it feels more like a civil case considering the strong emotions provoked by the presence of an actual victim.
Rafe Foreman, the Douglas Stripp Dean’s Distinguished Professor at UMKC and a prominent trial lawyer, is coaching the team. The members say they largely benefited from Foreman’s experience: he helped the team construct strategies that would present the evidence and arguments to the jury in the most efficient way. Hobbs and Smith both stated it was important to translate the information to a jury who did not have the same amount of legal education as the team members. The members believe that, along with a strong mentor and coach like Foreman, the courses offered through the Advocacy Program at UMKC Law are crucial to the team’s success.
UMKC School of Law wishes the Advocacy Team luck later this month.