After making it to the top seed of competition this spring, Brendan Moore Trial Advocates Ashley Abrankian ’22, Alejandro De La Torre ’22, Haley Griffin ’22, and Sophie Roytblat ’22 emerged as champions of the 14th Annual Capitol City Challenge.
“We felt like we had unfinished business,” said Abrankian, who won best advocate at the All Star Bracket Challenge last semester. Abrankian and her teammates placed as national quarter-finalists at the challenge. “We worked extremely hard in the fall and wanted to push ourselves even harder this time because it would be our last competition before graduation.”
“Once we advanced past the preliminary rounds at Capitol City, we told each other before each round, ‘We need to leave it all on the table because we might never do another cross examination in a competition again,’” she added. “We also reminded ourselves to forget everything that happened the round prior and to just have fun.”
Time Crunch? No Problem!
While working through this competition’s challenging fact pattern and case, the team regained its rhythm in January through moots with each other, a cohort of coaches, and Moore alumni. Five weeks later, the Fordham Law team joined 29 other law schools from across the country to participate in the four-day virtual competition, hosted by American University Washington College of Law Feb. 24–27.
Fordham Law went undefeated through six elimination rounds, besting UCLA in the final on Feb. 27. Roytblat also won awards for best direct examination in the preliminary rounds and best overall advocate in the final round. “I’m really grateful to my team,” said Roytblat. “I certainly would not have been able to win any of those awards if not for them and our team dynamic.”
“As we progressed throughout the competition, I could see how my teammates were getting better and better,” said De La Torre. “It was really rewarding to see how, even up until the very last round, we were still making minor adjustments and improvements in our presentations. I think those small tweaks are, in part, reasons why we ended up so successful.”
Giving Props to the Moore Alumni Network
All four students also credited their springtime coaches Valerie Allard ’19, Mike Higgins ’08, and Rob Iodice ’16 (who also served as their coach during the fall 2021 semester) for their latest success.
The team also thanked the additional Moore alumni who gave their time and energy to moot them and guest judge their practices: Graham Amodeo ’13, Jeff Briem ’05, Mike Chubinsky ’20, Christina Costello ’19, Aishling Fitzpatrick ’20 (who also served as the team’s coach during the fall 2021 semester), John Hobbs ’21, Johnny Johnsen ’16, Fawn Lee ’14, Katie McCabe ’15, Carolyn McGuigan ’21, David O’Brien ’16, Greg O’Brien ’18, Miranda Onnen ’18, Oliver Phillipson ’19, and Mary Cate Simeone ’19.
“It’s incredible how much work they put into helping us when they have full-time jobs,” said Griffin. “They truly invested in us, helping us to develop our skills and confidence, and seeing us grow [personally and professionally].”
Reflections from the Soon-To-Be Graduates
The team unanimously agreed that being part of the Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy Center the past two years was one of the best parts of their individual law school journeys.
“In these past four semesters, I’ve learned a lot about how to try a case and the skills and rules that go into it,” said De La Torre. “The progress I’ve made—and the progress I saw in my peers who, like me, didn’t have any trial advocacy experience before law school—has been one of the most rewarding aspects of law school for me. We won a championship at the national level, and I think that is a testament to the strength of the Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy Center as a whole.”
“That extra hour of work you put in, that extra meeting you have with your team, or that email you send to your coach with a random idea can pay off in the end,” added Abrankian, “That’s something that I’m going to carry with me throughout my legal career. It’s not just about choosing to do something, it’s about giving it your all.”
While the program allowed the students opportunities to hone their speaking abilities and perfect their presentations in the courtroom, it also gave them the confidence needed in the world of litigation. “Trial advocacy and being a Moore helped me envision my future career as a litigator,” said Roytblat. “That, I think, is a unique experience that not everybody gets in law school.”
“Throughout this whole experience, I learned that I liked litigation and taking a deep dive into the facts and crafting a narrative,” Griffin added. “It helped affirm that this is something I’m passionate about and that I want to continue doing this.”
Fordham Law is ranked seventh in the nation for trial advocacy by U.S. News and World Report in their latest annual rankings of the country’s best law schools.