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Drake team wins ABA Client Counseling Regionals

February 8, 2016
Nick Behlke and Erika Bertrand, the ABA Region 8 Client Counseling champions.

The Drake Law School Client Counseling team of Erika Bertrand (3L) and Nick Behlke (3L) won the American Bar Association (ABA) Region 8 Client Counseling Competition.

The competition was held Feb. 12-13 at the University of Nebraska College of Law. Eleven law school teams from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota participated in the competition.

The other Drake Law School team of Shannon Bogolin (2L) and Richelle Johnson (3L) also performed well. The team was ranked second after the preliminary rounds and advanced to the semi-finals.

According to the ABA website, “The Client Counseling competition addresses fundamental skills necessary for all successful attorneys, namely the ability to interview, counsel, and support a client through their legal issue.”

(Left to right) Shannon Bogolin, Richelle Johnson, Nick Behlke, and Erika Bertrand.

The competition simulates the initial client interview setting, where the law students – participating as a team of two “lawyers” – address the client’s legal and non-legal needs. Students must interview the client and ask questions to learn the nature of the issue at hand. Their goal is to build rapport, determine the client’s goals, and develop possible solutions.

During the competition, the two Drake Law School teams had to complete multiple client interviews, each involving a different client scenario in the field of criminal law and procedure. Judges observed the interviews and ranked the teams’ performances based on criteria established by the ABA.

“The Client Counseling Competition does a great job of replicating a lawyer's real life experience,” said Matthew Doré, the Richard M. and Anita Calkins Distinguished Professor of Law and faculty coach of the Drake Law School Client Counseling teams. “The students don’t know the client’s problem ahead of time, so they have to develop good questioning and listening skills to succeed. They also need to know the governing law and be able to think on their feet in order to analyze each new client situation in real time.”

“I was really proud of the way both our teams performed,” Doré added.

Bertrand and Behlke will represent Region 8 in the ABA Client Counseling National Finals at Baylor University Law School in April, where they will compete against 11 other regional champion teams.

This marks the fourth time since 2005 that a Drake Law School Client Counseling team has reached the national finals of the competition. A Drake team last won the national title in 2013.