UNM Team Excels at NITA Tournament of Champions

NITA TeamA team from the University of New Mexico School of Law was among 16 teams invited to the National Institute for Trial Advocacy 2010 Tournament of Champions, one of the most elite law school academic competitions in the country.

The team of Frank Davis (`12), Andy Scholl (`11), Jessica Terrazas (`11) and Taylor Watrous (`12) competed in four rounds of the late October tournament at Duquesne University School of Law. This was the third time the UNM School of Law had been invited to participate in the tournament, in which teams from the top mock trial programs in the country compete against each other.

Scholl and Terrazas prepared both the plaintiff and defense sides of a product liability case in which a defective hay baler malfunctioned, trapping the arm and leg of a farmhand. Davis assumed the role of both the farmhand victim and the farmer who owned the machine, and Watrous was the expert witness for both sides.

"It was a great learning experience to see how a case like this all comes together," said Watrous. "And I learned more than I ever thought possible about hale balers."

While the UNM team failed to advance to the final rounds, it was clear the judges liked them, said Brent Bailey, who, along with his law partner Steve Scholl (`89) coached the team.

"I was really proud of how we had been trained to think on our feet," said Davis. "It was obvious that many of the other teams were scripted and the students were stressed out, but we obviously had more fun."

The team worked together for six weeks prior to the competition, and in addition to Bailey and Scholl, a number of other lawyers put them through their paces during practice rounds.

"Students from other schools often work together for two-or-three years," said Scholl. "For these four students to put it all together and hold their own in such a short time speaks well about the quality of students and work ethic at the UNM School of Law."

The Chicago-Kent College of Law defeated the University of Maryland School of Law in the final round and was named national champion. Invitations to the tournament are based on a three-year performance record at the National Trial Competition and the ATLA National Student Trial Advocacy Competition, along with performances at prior Tournament of Champions competition.

November 8, 2010