Advocacy Fellows

The College of Law’s Advocacy Fellows are experienced practitioners, judges and litigation experts who coach the law school’s highly competitive intercollegiate advocacy teams.

Collectively, our Advocacy Fellows bring with them decades of experience in practice and coaching students in advocacy competitions. Their expertise and guidance greatly enhances the quality of the student learning experience and the competitiveness of the law school’s intercollegiate advocacy teams.

John F. Boyd II L’16
Court Attorney, New York’s 5th Judicial District

John F. Boyd II L’ 16 coaches the Black Law Student Association Trial Team. Mr. Boyd is a Court Attorney for New York’s 5th Judicial District. Prior to this position he was an Assistant District Attorney for Onondaga County and a litigation attorney at Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, in its Syracuse office. He has coached the BLSA Trial team since 2016.

While at the College of Law, John was a member of the Black Law Students Association Trial Team, which won its regional championship. John also competed in the Lionel O. Grossman Trial Competition earning the Frank H. Armani Advocacy Award. John also earned the Robert W. Miller Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy at the College. Prior to law school, John attended New York University, graduating in May 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Social and Cultural Analysis with dual concentrations in American Studies and Africana Studies. John is actively involved with numerous civic and charitable organizations in Onondaga County, including serving on the board of the William Herbert Johnson Bar Association and the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

John resides in Fayetteville, NY with his wife Katie.

Kaylin S. Grey L’06
Partner, MG+M

Kaylin S. Grey is a partner in MG+M’s Miami office. She is a seasoned trial lawyer whose practice focuses on complex commercial litigation and business counseling, general, products and premise liability, property management litigation and toxic tort defense. She also serves as co-chair for the firm’s Pro Bono Committee, which is dedicated to identifying pro bono opportunities and initiatives on a national level.

Kaylin has extensive trial experience representing clients as lead counsel in complex litigation and high stakes matters. She prepares every case with the expectation that it will go to trial, which is a strategy that helps position her clients well in all stages of litigation. Kaylin also has significant experience handling commercial litigation matters in both state and federal court, representing corporate clients and individuals in a wide range of matters, including complex breach of contract cases, writs of garnishment and replevin, business torts, and fraud and securities litigation. In addition, Kaylin provides business counseling to clients as a proactive measure to limit exposure from future litigation. She also serves as national counsel for a large corporate client handling all their employment litigation and EEOC claims.

Kaylin is a results-oriented problem solver who frequently assists clients in difficult and unique situations achieve the best outcome. As a former prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, she honed her trial skills, litigating more than 100 bench trials and more than 20 jury cases.

Kaylin obtained an LLM in Trial Advocacy from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law in 2010, and received her Juris Doctor from Syracuse University College of Law in 2006. As an alumni, she remains active with the Syracuse University College of Law’s trial advocacy program, and regularly works with law students that are members of the intercollegiate trial teams as one of the coaches, and recently was named an Advocacy Fellow by the school. She earned her B.A. from the University of South Florida in 2003, graduating cum laude.

David Katz L’17
Litigator, Smith, Sovik, Kendrick & Sugnet, P.C.

David Katz has helped coach the College of Law’s NMCC and ABA NAAC teams since he graduated in 2017. He is a litigator at Smith, Sovik, Kendrick & Sugnet, P.C. in Syracuse, New York. His practice there focuses on civil litigation in state and federal courts, including appellate work across the state. While a student at the College of Law, he participated in the NMCC team and the Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition. Additionally, he served as a co-director of the Mackenzie Hughes, LLP Edmund H. Lewis Appellate Advocacy Competition and as a Form and Accuracy Editor for the Syracuse Law Review. He was also inducted as a member of the Order of the Scribes (recognizing his skill in legal writing) and the Order of the Barristers (recognizing his skill in advocacy). Since 2019, he has contributed the Torts article to the Syracuse Law Review Survey of New York Law. Over the years, he has also frequently judged the College of Law’s intracollegiate appellate competitions and mooted other College of Law teams before competitions.

Jeff Leibo L’03
Administrative Law Judge, New York State

Jeff is a graduate of St. John Fisher University and Syracuse University College of Law. At the College of Law, Jeff competed in the National Trial Competition and the American Association for Justice Trial Competition. He also won and was named the best overall advocate of The Lionel L. Grossman Trial Competition, an annual College of Law competition.

After law school, Jeff worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Ithaca, NY, during which he second chaired a rare murder trial in Tompkins County. Jeff then spent several years working as a criminal defense attorney representing clients in offenses ranging from violations to felonies. During his time as a prosecutor and defense attorney, Jeff tried dozens of cases to verdict in Town and County courts across the State of New York. He also spent two years working to facilitate implementation of the Rockefeller drug law reforms as a Senior Project Manager at the Center of Community Alternatives (CCA). His work at CCA included writing practice guides, lecturing to judges and attorneys across New York State, and lobbying. For the past 8 years, Jeff has worked as an Administrative Law Judge for New York State where he presides over more than a dozen types of hearings.

Due to his passion for teaching and a desire to pay it forward, Jeff has been coaching Syracuse Law trial teams since 2004. As a College of Law Distinguished Advocacy Fellow, Jeff has coached or assisted in coaching teams competing in the Tournament of Champions, the National Civil Trial Competition, the National Trial Competition, the American Association for Justice Trial Competition, the Buffalo Trial Competition, and the American University King of the Hill Trial Competition.

Stephanie Martin Thom L’18
Assistant District Attorney, Rockland County District Attorney

Stephanie Martin Thom graduated from Syracuse University College of Law in 2018. She was an Assistant District Attorney with the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office until August of 2022, when she began working as an Assistant District Attorney at the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office. For the past five years, Stephanie has been a coach of a number of Syracuse Law’s National Trial Teams, and is presently the coach of the National Trial League Trial Team. She is also an Advocacy Fellow.

Jose E. Perez L’07
Law Offices of Jose Perez/Oficinas del Abogado Jose Perez, P.C.

Jose is admitted to practice law in New York, New Jersey, and Venezuela. Jose began his career as an attorney in Venezuela. Jose’s outstanding Venezuelan practice was recognized several times by the Miranda State Bar Association, which awarded him with honors in three different years. In 2002, Jose decided to come to the United States to further develop himself academically and professionally. In 2004, Jose was admitted to Syracuse University College of Law, where he graduated cum laude. During law school, Jose clerked for a US District Court in Florida. Jose joined the Smith Sovik law firm in 2007. Since joining the firm, Jose was involved in all areas of litigation. Jose has been and is a member of the Latin American Law Student Association; Hispanic National Bar Association; Black Law Student Association; DRI; American Bar Association; New Jersey State Bar; New York State Bar; Law Students in Action Project-Spanish Translation and Interpretation Assistance Team; Onondaga County Bar Association; AILA, among others.

In 2012, Jose decided to open his new and independent law firm. After opening the Law Offices of Jose Perez, Jose has been involved in all areas of litigation, including construction, labor and employment, premises liability, motor vehicle accidents, workers’ compensation, SSI/SSD, and immigration. Jose has been a speaker/panelist at numerous events dealing with his legal practice, Workers’ Compensation, and immigration issues. Jose also has a “Know-Your-Rights” column in the CNY Latino newspaper. Jose has received numerous awards and recognitions in New York State:

  • 2009 Latino Leadership Award;
  • 2010 40 Under 40 Rising Latino Star in New York State;
  • 2011 HNBA Presidential Pro Bono Recognition Award;
  • 2011 40 Under 40 of Central New York;
  • 2011 Service Award in Recognition of Outstanding Pro Bono Service;
  • 2012 New York State Bar Association Empire State Counsel;
  • 2013 Super Lawyers Upstate New York Rising Star;
  • 2013 Keynote Speaker of the Opening Ceremony of the Onondaga County Hispanic Heritage Month;
  • 2014, 2015 and 2016 Super Lawyers Upstate New York Rising Star;
  • 2016 Keynote Speaker of the Opening Ceremony of the Syracuse University College of Law Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration
  • 2017 Martindale Hubbell. Very High Rating in Both Legal Ability & Ethical Standards.
  • 2017 Super Lawyers. Rising Stars.
  • 2017 The American Registry. Top Ten American Professionals.
  • 2017 Top Attorneys of Upstate New York. Rising Stars 2017.
  • 2018 Martindale Hubbell. Very High Rating in Both Legal Ability & Ethical Standards.
  • 2018 Top Attorneys of Upstate New York. Rising Stars 2018.
  • 2018 The National Advocates. Top 40 Under 40.
  • 2018 Worldwide Super Lawyers. SSI/SSD Law Firm of the Year.
  • 2019 American Institute of Legal Counsel. 10 Best ImmigratiJon Attorneys. New York.
  • 2019 Martindale Hubbell. 5 Anniversary 2014-2019. Rated BV Distinguished for 5 years. Very High Rating in Both Legal Ability & Ethical Standards.
  • 2019 Martindale Hubbell. Very High Rating in Both Legal Ability & Ethical Standards.
  • 2019 Acquisition International. 2019 Leading Adviser Awards. Leading Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year, New York.; among others.
  • 2019 Sonia Sotomayor Award by the Syracuse University College of Law and the Latin American Law Students Association.
  • 2020 Martindale Hubbell Award. Very High Rating in Both Legal Ability & Ethical Standards.
  • 2020 Global Excellence Awards – Most Influential Immigration Lawyer 2020 – New York. AI Acquisition International.
  • 2020 Super Lawyer
  • 2021 Elite Advocate
  • 2021 Top 10 Immigration Law Attorney
  • 2021 Super Lawyer
  • 2021 Best of New York
  • 2022 Lawyers of Distinction

Jose has dedicated countless hours to community service. Jose has been representing clients successfully before the immigration courts and the USCIS on a pro-bono basis. The Fifth Judicial District ProBono Action Now Program, a Probono program that was funded by the New York State Unified Court System, Catholic Charities of Tioga/Tompkins Counties, and The Worker’s Rights Group, a Syracuse task force, which advocates for immigrants in Central New York, have referred ProBono cases to Jose for representation in several fields.

Jose is the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Nosotros Radio Inc. Nosotros’ mission is to provide quality Spanish & English language radio entertainment combined with on-air education for the encouragement and strengthening of the Latino community, and the promotion of intercultural sharing among Central New York’s diverse communities. Jose was also the Vice President of the League of United Latin American Citizens-(LULAC), Syracuse-NY-chapter, a Board Advisor of Syracuse University La Casita, Board Member of UMEA, and an Ad-hoc member of the Civil Rights Committee of Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse. Jose has appeared nationally on Telemundo and Univision.

Ryan Poplawski
Attorney, Hancock Estabrook, LLP

Ryan Poplawski is an attorney at Hancock Estabrook, LLP in Syracuse, New York where he focuses his practice on general litigation assisting clients in the areas of personal injury, products liability, and commercial litigation. Poplawski has successfully tried cases to verdict and has extensive experience in alternative dispute resolution. Additionally, he has assisted clients in various contract negotiations. He has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America “Ones to Watch” (2021 – 2023) and Super Lawyers Rising Star (2021-2022).

Poplawski has published numerous articles on the changes to the NCAA’s Name, Image and Likeness rules and has previously spoken at the 2021 Syracuse Law Entertainment and Sports Law Symposium. Poplawski has coached Syracuse Law’s TPBNC team since 2020.

Joanne Van Dyke L’87

Joanne Van Dyke was a founding partner in Cotè & Van Dyke, LLP, a firm which specializes in helping victims and their families in medical malpractice, products liability & personal injury. She has held positions on the Board of Directors of the Onondaga County Bar Association, the Assigned Counsel Program, and the Central New York Women’s Bar Association. She has hosted and lectured at continuing education seminars for the New York State Bar Association, the Trial Lawyers Association and other groups.

In 1987, she graduated from Syracuse Law, and in 2004, she began teaching Practical Lawyering Skills and various other litigation or trial advocacy courses at Syracuse University College of Law. In 2009, Professor Van Dyke received a LLM in Trial Advocacy from Temple University, Beasley School of Law. Professor Van Dyke has been actively involved in the Syracuse Trial Advocacy Program, which is one of the top ranked programs according to U.S. News & World Reports. In 1996, she began coaching the Syracuse National Trial Teams, including the Tournament of Champions, TYLA National Trial Team, and the American Association for Justice Trial Competition. Professor Van Dyke has hosted various trial competitions, and is the co-director of the Syracuse National Trial Competition. Since 2014, Professor Van Dyke has been on the Board of Directors of the Tournament of Champions. According to Professor Van Dyke, the law school’s trial advocacy program “helps law students take their knowledge of the law and apply it to real problems presented by clients in a mock trial competition setting. The students are able to develop the skills of interviewing and counseling clients, writing about their legal issues, and learning how to effectively and ethically educate their clients position in and out of the court room.”

Michelle Whitton Cowan L’07
Legal Counsel, Law Offices of Ralph Ankier & Staff Counsel, AmTrust North America

Michelle is a 2007 graduate of Syracuse University College of Law and was admitted to practice law in 2008. Since 2009 Michelle has practiced in the area of Workers’ Compensation Law representing both injured workers as well as insurance carriers across the state. She is currently working as in-house staff counsel at Amtrust Financial Services, Inc. Michelle’s exposure to trial advocacy started as early as middle school where she joined every team made available to her in middle school, high school and college. She was a member of the trial advocacy program during her time at the College of Law and has worked with numerous teams since graduation.

Peter R. Hakes
Assistant District Attorney, Onondaga County

Peter has been an Assistant District Attorney in the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office since 2014. He is presently assigned to the Economic Crimes and Rackets Bureau, with a focus on elder financial exploitation and high-profile financial crimes. Prior to his work in economic crimes, he handled cases involving crimes against children and domestic matters, and narcotics trafficking. Before joining the DA’s office, Peter was in private practice providing services for clients in the area of criminal defense, small business formation and operations, and real estate transactions. During his nearly two decades practicing law, he has tried dozens of cases, handled hundreds of hearings, and repeatedly lectured to lawyers, judges, law enforcement agencies, community groups and many other groups on a variety of legal and professional topics.

Originally from Western New York, Peter attended St. John Fisher College, in Rochester, and the University of Buffalo Law School, in Amherst. He competed on several trial teams and graduated in 2004. Soon after graduating from law school, Peter began coaching mock trial teams at the high school level and evaluating trial competitions at the law school level.

“In law school, my trial team coaches back at Buffalo always focused on ethical advocacy and the importance of ‘paying it forward’ and ‘giving back’. A few years back, I got the chance to do so at Syracuse University College of Law, and it has been one of the greatest opportunities I could have ever asked for. As a Distinguished Advocacy Fellow, I’m able to teach future trial lawyers at SUCOL with the encouragement, guidance, and support of extraordinary administrators, professors, coaches and students; people that I admire and respect not just professionally, but personally.” Working alongside many other coaches, Peter has coached or assisted in coaching teams competing in numerous prestigious trial competitions including, the Buffalo Niagara Trial Competition, the National Trial Competition, the American Association for Justice Trial Competition, the National Civil Trial Competition, and the American University King of the Hill Competition.