During his keynote remarks for an evening awards banquet, the Hon. Robert N. Hunter Jr. encouraged dozens of students from law schools across the country who competed in Elon Law’s 10th Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition to learn from mistakes and to recognize the value of the work they perform for clients.
In the age of email and Twitter and Snapchat, where fewer and fewer young people may be learning to engage with each other in deep and meaningful ways, a retired North Carolina Court of Appeals judge has a suggestion for law school students: practice advocacy skills now.
Learn how to communicate with clean, concise statements. Learn how to connect with judges and juries by making eye contact. Learn how to recover from mistakes.
And the Hon. Robert N. Hunter Jr. wasn’t simply addressing the winners of Elon Law’s 10th Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition when he delivered his keynote remarks Saturday evening during an awards banquet for the 2019 contest, which brought dozens of teams from across the nation this fall to downtown Greensboro. He made sure to point out that his reflections were also meant to inspire those who didn’t win a trophy.
“Congratulations!” said the former associate justice on the Supreme Court of North Carolina and judge for the North Carolina Court of Appeals. “You will be practicing law and you will be losing a large part of the time. I think you lose more cases than you win, and that is why it is called ‘practice.’ You are not perfect. You will make errors. You will make mistakes. And hopefully you’ll be cybernetic and you’ll learn from your mistakes. The worst thing you can do in the practice of law is not learn from your mistakes.”
After all, he said, students should not simply aspire to be legal service providers. They should aspire to be lawyers, which distinguishes them from others in society.
- “Read. Read. Read.” Read novels, Hunter said, and read the newspaper. Don’t read Twitter. Don’t read Facebook. “Learn how to think and speak and show your emotions to people for whom you care.”
- Learn the business of law. “Law is a profession but it is also a business, and you’ll want to be supportive of your business,” he said. “You can’t give away your work. Your work has value.”
- If you don’t succeed, reinvent yourself. Do something else within the law, he said, for “it’s a great profession to keep changing and keep learning, and keeping alive the spirit of liberal arts.”
- Join organizations such as local and state bar associations. “Professionals join societies… they exchange ideas, they get clients, they learn from their mistakes, they continually grow.”
Elon Law’s moot court competition from Oct. 10-12, 2019, set two new milestones: 42 teams from 28 law schools registered to attend, making it the largest event Elon Law’s Moot Court Board has ever organized; and for the first time in program history, the two teams to reach the final round represented the same law school.
The problem to be addressed by teams was the constitutionality of laws in the fictional State of Greene regulating abortion and the disposition of embryonic and fetal tissue remains resulting from the termination of a pregnancy at a health care facility. The fictional problem was inspired by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld Indiana’s own law regulating the disposition of fetal remains following an abortion.
Keanna Broadie, Matthew Rhodes and Lindsey Wofford of Florida Coastal School of Law triumphed over classmates Tiffany Hickerson, Austin Kwikkel and Heather Masse to claim first place in the 2019 competition. Rhodes also was named best oral advocate in the final round, while Wofford was honored as the best oral advocate in the preliminary rounds.
Florida Coastal’s winning team received a replica of Elon Law’s Chief Justices’ Cup and will have its school name engraved on the permanent trophy that resides at Elon Law. Each individual member of the first-place team also receives a plaque.
The two Florida Coastal teams argued in the final round before a panel of five judges including Hunter; the Hon. L. Patrick Auld, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina; the Hon. James G. Exum Jr., retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina; the Hon. John M. Tyson of the North Carolina Court of Appeals; and the Hon. Willis P. Whichard, former associate justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
The Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition honors three former North Carolina Supreme Court chief justices – Rhoda Bryan Billings, James Exum, and Henry E. Frye, all founding members of Elon Law’s Advisory Board – and each year focuses on constitutional law issues.
Moot court teams participated in three preliminary rounds of oral argument, after which the field was narrowed for octofinal, quarterfinal, semifinal and championship rounds. Teams submitted briefs in advance of the competition, representing either the petitioner or the respondent in the hypothetical case before the United States Supreme Court. Competitors were judged on the quality of their appellate brief and oral arguments.
“It is gratifying to see the growth and success of the competition over the past 10 years,” said Alan Woodlief, senior associate dean and director of Elon Law’s moot court program. “I was so impressed with the leadership and hard work of our Moot Court Board this year, as they balanced the largest number of teams, judges and bailiffs ever and ran a superb competition.”
Semfinal Round Judges
- The Hon. Katie Overby
District Court Judge, North Carolina District Court
- Gregg Schwitzgebel
Associate General Counsel, North Carolina League of Municipalities and Immediate Past Chair, North Carolina Bar Association Appellate Practice Section
- The Hon. Thomas H. Lock
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, North Carolina Superior Court
- The Hon. Angela B. Puckett
Superior Court Judge, North Carolina Superior Court
- The Hon. Marcus Shields
District Court Judge, North Carolina District Court
- Dean Enrique Armijo
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at Elon University School of Law
- Dean Wendy Scott
Associate Dean for Academic Success and Professor of Law at Elon University School of Law
- Professor Steve Friedland
Senior Scholar and Professor of Law at Elon University School of Law
Elon Law Moot Court Board committee chairs for the 10th Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition
- Cody Jones L’19 and Michelle Scott L’19, competition co-chairs
- Kelli Rawlinson L’19 and Chris Tarpley L’19, hospitality
- Jaclyn McKeon L’19 and Karah Yager L’19, bailiffs
- Preston Edwards L’19 and Lauren Zickert L’19, scoring
- Emily Benson Chatzky L’19 and Logan DeHart L’19, judge recruitment
- Haley Lohr L’19 and Hannah Tombaugh L’19, authors of the problem
About Elon Law:
Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law. With a focus on learning by doing, it integrates traditional classroom instruction with course-connected, full-time residencies-in-practice in a logically sequenced program of transformational professional preparation. Elon Law’s groundbreaking approach is accomplished in 2.5 years, which provides distinctive value by lowering tuition and permitting graduates early entry into their legal careers.