Given the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, the Travis H.D. Lewin Advocacy Honor Society could have been forgiven if it had stepped back this year and waited for the dust to settle.
But in 2020-2021, students, professors, coaches, and judges did quite the opposite. They embraced virtual tournaments; added, launched, planned—and hosted—competitions; and boosted Syracuse’s national reputation to such an extent, Syracuse Law is now ranked number 11 in the nation for Trial Advocacy by U.S. News and World Report, having climbed 16 places in two years. That’s on top of placing number seven in Fordham Law’s 2020 Trial Competition Performance rankings.
Among the highlights of this academic year, two teams won their regional rounds for the second year in a row: the Black Law Students Association Trial Team and the National Moot Court Competition Team. The BLSA team then progressed to the elite eight of their national tourney, the Constance Baker Motley Mock Trial Competition.
In February 2021, Syracuse swept the National Trial Competition Region 2 tournament, also for the second year in a row, meaning the Program again sent two teams to the NTC national finals and lifted the Tiffany Cup—awarded by the NYSBA Trial Lawyers Section, which sponsors the NTC New York Regional—for the third year in a row.
Syracuse’s national reputation undoubtedly was boosted by the excellence of hosted competitions. In October 2020, the second Syracuse National Trial Competition became one of the first live-streamed tourneys in the nation. The SNTC organizers convened 22 top teams, managed nearly 50 trials, and gathered an awe-inspiring 150 volunteer evaluators, including many of our alumni. Loyola Law School Los Angeles prevailed over Georgetown Law in the final round.
The Program then launched a new international competition in March 2021. The Transatlantic Negotiation Competition—a collaboration with Queen’s University, Belfast—brought together 60 students and judges (including alumni) from 23 countries, with Liberty University School of Law winning the inaugural tournament.
Next year, these two hosted competitions will be joined by the new National Disability Law Appellate Competition. Co-hosted by Syracuse Law and the National Disabled Law Students Association, NDLAC will feature a minimum of 12 teams from law schools across the United States competing in an appellate brief writing component and an oral argument component.
“NDLAC is the first national appellate advocacy competition to focus exclusively on disability law. It will enable students to develop their oral advocacy skills while simultaneously navigating a challenging and important area of disability law,” says Professor Michael Schwartz, Director of the Disability Rights Clinic.
With the addition of NDLAC, Syracuse Law now boasts three invitation-only competitions in each of the recognized advocacy divisions—Alternative Dispute Resolution, Appellate, and Trial.
In intracollegiate tournaments, notably, this was the first year that JDinteractive students competed, and JDi students won both the Hancock Estabrook Oral Advocacy Competition and the Bond, Schoeneck & King Alternative Dispute Resolution Competition.
In sum, rather than diminishing or even shutting down advocacy tournaments and training during the coronavirus pandemic, faculty, students, and alumni volunteers embraced online competition, allowing new opportunities to be seized.
2020-2021 INTERCOLLEGIATE COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS
- In late November 2021, there was good news from Boston, where Joseph Tantillo L’21 and rising 3Ls Kelsey Gonzalez and Olivia Stevens won the Boston Regional of the appellate division National Moot Court Competition. Tantillo also won Best Oralist. This success marked the second consecutive year Syracuse won the Boston Regional, and Tantillo took home his individual award. Emily Brown L’09 and David Katz L’17 coached the team.
- In February 2021, the Black Law Student Association trial division team—Ken Knight L’21, Sharon Otasowie L’21, and rising 3Ls Abigail Neuviller and Alexis Eka, coached by John Boyd II L’16—advanced from the Constance Baker Motley Mock Trial Competition regionals for the second year in a row.
- Sharon Otasowie L’21 and rising 3L Robert Rose posted award-winning performances at the 2020 Buffalo-Niagara Trial Competition in October 2021. Otasowie won Best Overall Advocate and Rose offered the Best Direct Examination.
- In March 2021, Syracuse swept the National Trial Competition Region 2 tournament for the second year in a row. This double win meant that the College once again sent two teams to the NTC national finals and took home the NYSBA’s Tiffany Cup for the third year in a row. Joanne Van Dyke L’87 and Peter Hakes coached rising 3Ls Marina DeRosa and Amanda Nardozza, who took first place, and runners-up Joe Celotto L’21 and Christy O’Neil L’21.
2020-2021 INTRACOLLEGIATE COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS
- Audrey Bimbi L’21 and Carly Cazer L’21 won the 49th Mackenzie Hughes LLP Edmund H. Lewis Appellate Advocacy Competition. The final round, on Oct. 1, 2021, marked the first-ever virtual moot court competition hosted by the Travis H.D. Lewin Advocacy Honor Society. Bimbi also won Best Advocate.
- Rising 3Ls Penny Quinteros and Margaret Santandreu won the 2020 College of Law Bond, Schoeneck & King Alternative Dispute Resolution Competition. The final—held virtually
- in October—was judged by the Hon. Joanne F. Alper ’72, Circuit Court of the Seventh Circuit of Virginia (Ret.); James L. Sonneborn, of Bousquet Holstein PLLC; and Brian Butler L’96, a managing member for Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC.
- In March 2021, Allyssa-Rae McGinn won the 11th Hancock Estabrook 1L Oral Advocacy Competition, judged by Dean Boise; the Hon. Mae A. D’Agostino L’80 and the Hon. Thérèse Wiley Dancks L’91, both of the US District Court for the Northern District of New York; and Timothy P. Murphy L’89, Managing Partner, Hancock Estabrook LLP.
- Alex Eaton L’21 and Tyler Jefferies L’21 won the 43rd Annual Lionel O. Grossman Trial Competition. Jefferies took home the Best Advocate award. Held virtually for the first time in its history in March 2021, the final round was judged by the Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby L’85, US District Court Judge, Northern District of New York; the Hon. Rodney Thompson L’93, New Jersey Superior Court Judge; and the Hon. Bernadette Romano Clark L’89, New York State Supreme Court Justice.
- Rising 2Ls Payton Sorci and Nicco Vocaturo prevailed in
- the second annual Entertainment and Sports Law Society Negotiation Competition held on April 8, 2021. The competition was held in conjunction with the seventh annual Entertainment and Sports Law Symposium, the first time both events were held completely online. Competition judges were Professor Elizabeth August L’94; Kevin Belbey L’16, Sports Media Agent, Creative Artists Agency; and Beverly Sarfo, General Counsel, TVO.
2021 AWARD AND SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS
- Executive Director’s Award: Tyler Jefferies L’21
- Ralph E. Kharas Award: Joseph Tantillo L’21
- Faculty Advocacy Director’s Award: Sharon Otasowie L’21
- International Academy of Trial Lawyers Award: Joseph Celotto L’21 & Christy O’Neil L’21
- Richard Risman Appellate Advocacy Award: Joseph Tantillo L’21
- Emil Rossi L’72 Scholarship Award: Rising 3L Amanda Nardozza
- Lee S. Michaels L’72 Advocate of the Year Scholarship Award: Rising 3L Marina De Rossa
- Models of Excellence in Advocacy Award, given in Honor of Everett Gillison L’85: Rising 3Ls Kelsey Gonzales & Olivia Stevens
- Order of the Barristers: Carly Cazer L’21, Joseph Celotto L’21, Lisa Cole L’21, Kenneth Knight L’21, Allison Kowalczyk L’21, Christy O’Neil L’21, Sharon Otasowie L’21, Joseph Tantillo L’21
A 360° View: Remarks by Professor Todd Berger at the 2021 Travis H.D. Lewin Advocacy Honor Society Banquet, April 2021
Syracuse might well be the only law school in the country with a large student organization whose students are deeply integrated into an academic program—our Advocacy Program—which encompasses the fields of trial and appellate advocacy, as well as alternative dispute resolution.
No school in the country has five internal advocacy competitions. Few schools host a trial competition as competitive as the Syracuse National Trial Competition. There is only one other school in the world—our co-hosting partner, Queen’s University, Belfast—that holds an international negotiation competition, the Transatlantic Negotiation Competition.
There are few schools that match our record of intercollegiate success and offer scholarships to high-performing student advocates, both upon entry to law school and based on their advocacy success while in school. And there are only 10 other law schools with a higher U.S. News ranking.
I’m also proud of our advocacy-focused curriculum, which includes our basic advocacy courses and more advanced offerings, such as advanced trial practice, deposition practice, and jury selection.
While some schools might do a few of these things, in short, Syracuse is doing all of them.
As he rendered the panel’s decision on the final round of the Lionel O. Grossman Trial Competition in March 2021, the Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby L’85, Chief United States District Judge, US District Court for the Northern District of New York, addressed the four finalists*, observing:
“I’ve been doing this a long time, since law school. I’ve judged a lot of moot court competitions. The four of you are four of the best I’ve ever seen. Those were the two best opening statements in a moot court competition since I’ve been doing this. I’m just so impressed with all of you. You have a great future ahead of you.”
*Alex Eaton L’21 and Tyler Jefferies L’21 (winners); rising 3Ls Will Hendon and Nate Kelder (runners-up)