The New York City Trial Lawyers Alliance recognized three Fordham Law students for their outstanding achievements at the American Association for Justice Trial Advocacy Competition held in March.
The three recipients of the NYCTLA Trial Advocacy Award—Brianna Gallo, Marjorie (Jorie) Dugan, and Claire Huynh—were awarded a $2,500 prize. This is the first year that the NYCTLA has sponsored such an award, and the alliance hopes it will encourage talented students to continue in their career as trial lawyers. In addition to the prize and recognition, the students are invited to attend the NYCTLA Gala in October.
“The AAJ competition was challenging and fun. Each time we made it through to the next round, I couldn’t believe it!” Dugan said. “I was proud to be competing for Fordham Law and the Brendan Moore Trial Advocates; they had given me that ability to walk into a courtroom feeling ready for anything that would come our way because I had confidence in our preparation and ability as trial advocates.”
The three 2L students were members of a four-person team that included Alex Oliver, a 3L law student. The team advanced to the final round during the three-day AAJ competition, and after competing against 16 other schools, they received second place.
Gallo, Dugan, and Huynh were selected to receive the NYCTLA award by members of the Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy Center, who felt the award would be most beneficial for students in the earlier stages of their career.
“It’s really nice that the NYCTLA has recognized the accomplishments of the Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy program at Fordham and given us the opportunity to honor students specifically for their hard work,” said Professor James Kainen, Brendan Moore Chair in Advocacy.
“It was amazing, in and of itself, to be a finalist in the AAJ competition, but to have Fordham and the NYCTLA recognize the hard work we put into preparing for this competition really inspires me to continue working hard and to compete in future semesters,” Gallo added.
In preparation for the competition, the students worked with coaches Brittany Russell and Mike Hardin, both of whom are adjunct professors of trial advocacy. The competition involved a civil case regarding whether or not a bar was responsible for a drunk driving accident. Russell assisted the team largely with case theory as well as direct and cross examinations, and closing and opening statements. Hardin helped train the team in understanding the law and preparing them for presenting and arguing evidence.
“Mike and Brittany were invaluable in preparing for the competition. We met three times a week for anywhere from two to eight hours,” Huynh said. “Brittany helped me find my voice and learn how to use it effectively, while Mike gave me insight into how to adapt to crazy theories. Together they had a great dynamic and really worked off each other well, which made practice enjoyable while still challenging us.”
The AAJ competition consisted of five different rounds in which the team was required to use the same facts but present their case in different ways and to varying judges, each of whom would make different rulings and have different ways of conducting their courtroom, keeping the competitors constantly on their toes.
“This was an incredible experience. I gained exposure to courtroom proceedings and, more importantly, I learned how to adapt to different rulings and different case theories,” Huynh said. “This experience also taught me that, although being self-reliant is useful, learning to rely on your team and work together is invaluable. During each break our team rallied together to discuss strategy. Four heads are always better than one.”
This was the second time Dugan, Gallo, and Huynh competed in a trial advocacy competition. The all-women team reflected on how training and participating in the competition provided them with a diverse skill set that has better prepared them for a career as a trial lawyer.
Dugan, who delivered the defense opening at the competition, noted, “Knowing how to formulate a strong and persuasive case theory and then write a compelling opening and closing is an incredibly valuable skill.”
Each year, Fordham Law sends several teams of students from the Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy program to competitions across the country.
“What I have learned from competing in the trial advocacy competitions is so incredibly useful and relevant,” said Gallo.