HOUSTON – South Texas College of Law (STCL) Houston has recently won its 124th and 125th national advocacy titles in a single weekend in trial and appellate advocacy tournament competitions.
Thirty-four law schools in the nation compete in the advocacy competitions, which are composed of mock trial and moot court competition.
Mock trial competitions simulate trial proceedings. Teams for four students portray both attorneys and witnesses, perform direct and cross examinations, and present opening and closing arguments. Moot court competitions simulate appellate court proceedings. Teams of three students answer questions from a panel of actual judges.
Last month, STCL Houston students won at the Law & Science National Mock Trial Competition at Arizona State University and at the National Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia.
The STCL Houston Advocacy Program students receive training and hands-on coaching in trial and appellate advocacy from professors and alumni, which includes working trial and appellate lawyers.
STCL Houston competes in about 30 national advocacy competitions each year.
STCL has won 125 advocacy championships and has won the American Bar Association’s (ABA) National Appellate Advocacy Competition 15 times. South Texas was ranked first by PreLaw Magazine as the best moot court of the decade, and it ranks consistently in the nation’s top 10 college for trial advocacy by U.S. News & World Report.
“The rankings demonstrate that we are always consistent,” Donald J. Guter, STCL Houston president and dean, told The Record. “Advocacy takes hours of practice and hard work. The advocacy program teaches students competition and allows them to branch out into new areas. The subject matter can differ, such as medical, energy, and constitutional. It requires dedication to master.”
Professor T. Gerald Treece is vice president and associate dean at STCL Houston and has served as director of the school’s Advocacy Program for nearly 40 years.
“Competition is one of the best ways to educate students in advocacy training,” Treece told The Record.
Treece uses the analogy of Marine boot camp to describe the rigorous training involved for student advocates.
“It is not college debating,” he says. “The students have to put their ego on the shelf. They are training to represent clients and persuade positions.”
Treece says the students practice areas such as procedure, evidence, legal analysis, and legal research and briefs.
“The students get to work on live issues before it counts,” Treece says. “It teaches them how to think on their feet, how to respond, and how to be persuasive in both oral and written form.”
Treece says that most of the program’s hands-on coaches are former South Texas advocate students. Students also get coaching from Rob Galloway, associate director of the Advocacy Program.
“We are like a fraternity,” Treece says. “There is a collegiality in the competition.”
Treece says students also learn how to handle losing. “They are going to lose a lot,” Treece said. “How do you adjust, especially if it’s an unfair loss? How do you tell your client? Will there be a motion or appeal?”
STCL Houston is currently competing at the ABA tournament in Washington, D.C.
“The advocacy program not only prepares students for litigating, it prepares them for what they are going to do in life. Everyone in the program has to buy into it for it to succeed,” Guter said.
STCL Houston changed its name briefly to Houston College of Law before changing it back last year to avoid a trademark lawsuit with the University of Houston.