In the winter 2018 issue of the prelaw Magazine, a National Jurist publication, UMKC School of Law was ranked A- on the list of Best Schools for Trial Advocacy. The School of Law’s advocacy program continues to grow each year, and the Show Me Challenge has become a nationally respected and successful part of the program. In addition, trial advocacy students have been led to many tournament victories throughout the past few years.

The advocacy program’s strength comes from the leadership of Professor S. Rafe Foreman, Douglas R. Stripp Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of Advocacy, and Professor Michaelle Tobin. Approximately 25 students are on one of the school’s national teams that compete in 10 to 12 competitions during the year. Each student devotes about 20 hours per week working with Foreman and Tobin in preparation for competitions. Foreman and Tobin were successful trial lawyers before joining UMKC. In the Spring of 2018, Laura Rose joined the Advocacy Program as a Teaching Fellow; Rose came to UMKC after working for the Florida Office of the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

UMKC Law is the only university that offers a national voir dire competition. Foreman and Tobin established the “Show Me Challenge” six years ago, as a three-day event that encourages students to gain knowledge and experience in an often under-taught element of trial practice. The idea for the competition arose from the Educating Advocates Conference, where Foreman collaborated with others to revitalize voir dire as an art form.

UMKC Law is also the only known university to offer a “Master of Advocacy” class. In this class, students work directly with Foreman on real cases. Much like the exposure to hot topics at the Show Me Challenge, students gain hands-on experience in the Master of Advocacy class. The course prepares students to take on cases, and has led to exciting, practical opportunities for the students before they graduate.

In November 2017, Ryan Krupp (J.D. ’17), tried his first jury trial as a result of enrolling in the Master of Advocacy course. Parke Stevens Jr. (J.D. ’13), Prosecuting Attorney for Texas County, requested one student from the Master of Advocacy course to help him on a case. Stevens often offers to let Foreman’s students to try cases; in December 2016, Taylor Haas (J.D. ’17) also tried and won one of Stevens’ cases.

Students put everything they learn into practice in mock trial competitions. Although UMKC Law has a long history of excelling in mock trial competitions, in Spring 2017, three teams advanced.

The UMKC team won the Denver American Association of Justice (AAJ) Regional and finished in the top four teams in the nation. For the third time in the last five years, a UMKC Law team advanced to the prestigious National Trial Competition (NTC) in Fort Worth, TX and finished in the top eight teams out of 28 teams entered. Finally, the UMKC team also advanced to the final four round of the National Criminal Justice Trial Competition.

Additionally, UMKC Law received its first invitation to the exclusive Baylor Law School Top Gun National Mock Trial Tournament in June 2017. Only 16 of the top schools in the nation receive an invitation to this competition, and UMKC Law placed third as a semifinalist.

The Advocacy Program’s success is also attributed to the scholarships sponsored by several law firms and organizations, which allow the students to focus solely on preparing for the trial competitions without the distractions of finding outside work to manage the costs of law school and living expenses. The sponsors include the Kemper Family Foundations and law firm support from Davis Bethune Jones; Dollar, Burns & Becker; Langdon Emison; and the Edgar Law Firm. 

Through the hands-on coursework, trial competitions, and competent leadership by Foreman and Tobin, the UMKC Law graduate of today has the opportunity to graduate as a “trial ready” attorney.

Read the full issue of preLaw magazine.