By: Professor Denitsa Mavrova Heinrich
This past weekend, UND School of Law Trial Team competed at the National Trial Competition for Region 9, which included 24 teams from around the region. The National Trial Competition is co-sponsored by the Texas Young Lawyers Association and the American College of Trial Lawyers. The competition was established in 1975 to encourage and strengthen students’ advocacy skills.
This year, UND School of Law team of Jenna Bergman and Erin Ferry advanced to the semifinal round of the competition! Jenna and Erin were exceptional throughout the preliminary rounds, facing and eliminating teams from top-tiered law schools and schools with long-established and nationally-recognized trial advocacy programs. The two were consistently praised by the judges for their preparation, poise, and professionalism in presenting the case. In the semifinal round, Jenna and Erin faced the number-one-seeded team from the University of Minnesota, and the three-hour trial that followed was nothing short of a master demonstration of trial advocacy skills by both teams. The final result was a split ballot—2:1 in judges’ votes and a narrow point differential. One thing was unanimous, however—Jenna and Erin’s performance at that semifinal round was absolutely outstanding, as both the judges, the opposing team members, and the other coaches noted.
UND School of Law’s second team, consisting of Erik Edison and Patricia Castro, did an excellent job at the preliminary rounds as well. The team faced some tough competition in those rounds, including two teams that advanced to the semifinals, but tried each case with zeal and conviction. The team was praised for its command of the case, its excellent control of the courtroom, and its mastery of the rules of evidence.
Unlike years past, each member of this year’s Trial Team had to prepare both sides of the case in a short timeframe—a task that would be demanding and challenging even for practicing attorneys. Yet, the students never lost sight of the important work they were doing and the impact this work would have on developing the skills they need to succeed in the practice of law. They never gave up. They maintained a positive attitude throughout and they were resilient. The students spent countless hours preparing and practicing their opening statements, examinations, and closing arguments. They conducted evidentiary research, argued motions in limine, and made and responded to objections. They gave it their all!
The success of our Trial Team is largely reflective of the support the School of Law and our alumni extend the team each year. We are grateful to Dean Rand for her continued confidence in the program, to Professor McGinniss for his sound advice on the evidentiary issues associated with this year’s problem, and to Assistant Dean Parish for his time and constructive feedback during one of our practice trials. Each year, we also reach out to members of the bench and bar, asking for assistance in preparing the team for competition. And each year, we are humbled by their generosity in offering their time and sharing their expertise and experience with our students. The team would like to extend a special “Thank You” to the following individuals for being our mentors, critics, and cheerleaders along the way: Beth Alvine, Brittney Blake, Michael Carlson, Lori Conroy, Kyle Craig, Dane DeKrey, Dean DePountis, Sandra DePountis, Brandt Doerr, Brent Edison, Andrew Eyre, Eeva Greenley, Judge Michael Fritz, Joe Parise, Bruce Quick, Alex Stock, and Aubrey Zuger. We could not have done it without you!