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Drake mock trial team advances to national finals

March 17, 2008

A Drake University Law School mock trial team swept the regional round of the American Association of Justice (AAJ)2008 Student Trial Advocacy Competition recently held in Denver.

The team defeated teams from Creighton University, the University of Denver, Marquette University and Oklahoma City University.

From April 4-6, the Drake team will compete in the national finals in West Palm Beach, Fla. The law students will argue the plaintiff and the defendant side of the same case that was presented in the regional competition. The case involves a widower representing his wife's estate in a medical malpractice action against a family practitioner.

"It's been an outstanding group to work with," said team coach Matthew Eslick, LW'05, attorney with Nyemaster, Goode, West, Hansell and O'Brien law firm in Des Moines.

"I'm exceptionally proud of their achievement. It's not easy to win a region, and the fact that they did it is remarkable. We're really looking forward to competing in Florida," he added.

Eslick has an extensive background in mock trial. He began competing in middle school and continued through his education at Drake Law School. This is his third year coaching this team with Kurt Van Thomme, LW'05, attorney with McKee, Voorhees and Sease PLC law firm in Des Moines.

The team consists of second-year law students Amanda Brookhyser, Meggan Guns and Todd Smith and third-year law student Patrick McElyea.

"It was terrific to have been so successful," Smith said. "Not only is it an accomplishment for the team, but for Drake as well. It is wonderful to be able to contribute to the university's long-held prestige.

"It is very exciting to look forward to the national tournament. As with the regional, it is a unique opportunity to witness and perform one of the more exciting aspects of the legal profession," he added.

In addition, a second Drake team of Amanda James, Lynzey Tharp, Peter Larkin and Tim Carey competed in the regional round held in Chicago. They faced teams including the defending national runner up, and were defeated before making it to the semifinals.

To prepare for the competition, students prepare the plaintiff and defense arguments, go through three preliminary rounds and continue to compete in single elimination semifinal rounds to the final round.

"We usually practiced three times a week and got together in pairs on our own I for about 20 hours per week," said McElyea. "We did a lot of repetition and prepared to anticipate changes."

When asked about the next competition, McElyea said, "I think this time around we know where some hang ups might be and we will work on those trouble areas. The trick will be to make sure our strong parts stay strong."

Once the teams win the final round, they advance to the national tournament. There are 14 regional winners competing in the national tournament and the top eight teams advance to a single elimination round to determine the national winner.

Funding for both AAJ Mock Trial Teams was made possible by the sponsorship of the law firm of Galligan, Doyle and Reid PC in Des Moines.