After winning regionals in the American Association for Justice (AAJ) Student Trial Competition, the team of Mollie Harmon (J.D. ’17), Nick Schmiemeier (J.D. ’17), Allison Stephens (J.D. ’18), and Taylor Haas (J.D. ’17) competed in the national tournament in Cleveland, Oh. from March 27 – April 2, 2017. This competition started with 224 teams all across the country, and only 16 teams advanced to AAJ Nationals. We invited two of the team members to share their experiences and feedback from the tournament.
Q: Congratulations on making it to the AAJ Nationals! Tell us about the tournament.
Mollie Harmon (MH): We made it to the quarterfinals- so the top 8 teams in the nation. We were guaranteed three preliminary rounds. We won all three. The first was our Defense team (Alison and Nick) against Chicago Kent. The second round was our Plaintiff team (Taylor and Mollie) against Maryland. The third was our Plaintiffs team again (Taylor and Mollie) against UC Davis. Then we advanced as the number 2 seed. Unfortunately, our Plaintiff side lost to Belmont in the quarterfinals.
Q: Tell us about the case.
MH: We used the same case from the regional tournament- a civil negligence case dealing with a business owner’s duty to a customer who was mugged outside of the business. The facts of the case heavily favored the Defense, so when we got to the quarterfinals, every single team that drew the Defense side won and advanced.
Q: Overall, did you think your strategy was successful? Is there anything you would change about your strategy?
MH: I would not change a thing. We worked so hard, but we got an unlucky draw on the schedule. We had to go Plaintiffs side 3 times in a row, and I am proud we won 2 out of those 3 Plaintiff rounds.
Taylor Haas (TH): I would not change a thing either. We really found our courtroom personalities this semester. As Mollie mentioned, the plaintiffs had a rough go in terms of the facts, but we did a lot of thinking and analyzing and searching and finally found the story that persuaded ourselves. This story made our arguments that much more persuasive to audiences.
Q: Did you find UMKC’s courses and trial preparation helpful for your competition? What are the programs/courses you would recommend to future law students?
MH: If you want to be a litigator or a trial attorney, you need to take Trial Advocacy 1 & 2. You should also try out for the mock trial team. It is the most practical experience I have had in law school.
TH: To any students or potential students interested in litigation or becoming trial lawyers, UMKC Trial Advocacy is the place to go! Our program is great and it is only getting greater. Everything I learned about trial advocacy and trying cases in the courtroom, I learned from the classes I took through the Advocacy Program.
Q: What are your plans for the remainder of law school/post-graduation?
MH: Taylor, Nick and I are all graduating this May. We all hope to go into litigation. I have accepted a position as an associate at Bryan Cave.
TH: I am currently applying to firms. I want to be a personal injury plaintiff’s attorney here in Missouri.
Q: Is there anything else you want readers to know?
MH: Take advantage of the dedicated and passionate professors we have running our trial advocacy program. My team is so thankful to coach Tobin and coach Foreman. This mock trial program is getting better each semester and it is because the coaches care. They give up nights at home and time with family to make us the best.