A La Verne Law moot court team bested opponents from Northwestern University and U.C. Hastings while advancing to the Thomas Tang National Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C.
Although the La Verne Law team did not place in the extremely competitive event in the nation’s capital, judges repeatedly complimented the skills of third-year students Margarita Velikanov and Amir Carr.
Velikanov and Carr earned third place at the western regional competition in October. Velikanov also earned the honor of 2nd place oralist.
“We were able to do better than students ranked in the top 10, top 20 of all law schools in the nation,” Velikanov said. “It’s very overwhelming because it was so unexpected.”
Adjunct La Verne Law professor Dean McVay, an attorney with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, was instrumental in the team’s success, she said. McVay has been coaching moot court teams since 1999, and La Verne Law’s teams have placed well in a variety of competitions.
“He knew how to foster every student’s talent and teach every student what he or she needed to know or do, and out of nowhere you sounded better than you ever thought you could,” she said.
Velikanov and Carr received their question in August and dedicated hundreds of hours to preparing for the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s annual competition.
For national competitions, moot court teams must practice 16 times, arguing both sides before a panel of judges.
“We ask every conceivable question so they are not thrown off,” McVay said. “The students love it. They love the fact that they are getting one-on-one faculty attention and support. There’s instant return, critique, conversation. It’s almost like being in a theater rehearsal.”
Carr said moot court has taught him litigation and advocacy skills.
“You don’t get the opportunity to develop the practical side of the law unless you have an externship or you are on a moot court team,” he said. “For me, that’s the biggest supplement to what I’ve learned in law school. I’m excited about going to nationals. It’s a reflection of the hard work we’ve put in.”
Velikanov said moot court is teaching her how to be an attorney.
“You learn to think on your feet. You learn to think when something is thrown at you from left field. Those kinds of skills are so paramount to being an attorney and they are not taught in the classroom.”
Students also become familiar with basics such as how to stand at the podium and how to address the court.
The skill sets La Verne students acquire through moot court sets them apart, McVay said.
“Our students are a step above the rest because they know how to communicate and be persuasive,” he said. “When they go into court, they are ready to do that.”
Velikanov and Carr enjoyed going to Washington and are thankful for the experience.
“It’s hard not to be proud of yourself in that you are able to go to nationals against schools you never thought you would compete against,” Velikanov said. “There’s also a lot of pride in representing the University of La Verne College of Law.”