Alumnus Boosts Trial Advocacy Program to New Heights

With generous gifts and a profound vision, eminent litigator A. Barry Cappello ’65 sows the seeds of success for UCLA Law’s next generation of courtroom advocates.

In 2019, A. Barry Cappello ’65 saw a way in which he could strengthen his alma mater in the field to which he was devoted: trial advocacy. Cappello – a nationally celebrated litigator and managing partner of Santa Barbara-based Cappello and Noël – made a $500,000 gift that created the A. Barry Cappello Program in Trial Advocacy. The program offers a certificate for students who complete a rigorous trial advocacy curriculum and laid the foundation for the school’s trial advocacy team to reach unprecedented success.

Within a year, veteran litigator and legal educator Justin Bernstein had come aboard to direct the program and steer the school’s previously unranked team to six tournament victories, 12 final-round appearances and a No. 3 national ranking. “Trial competitions really bring the threads of legal education together,” said Bernstein, who shared coaching duties with experienced trial advocates, including alumni who had competed when they attended UCLA Law. “In class, students work on core skills, including writing, oral advocacy and understanding of precedent and core legal principles. Then, in competition, they must be able to solve problems, put their clients first and think on their feet.”

Trial advocacy is part of the school’s experiential education program, which offers more than 40 clinics, simulations and practicums that give students real-world experience and preparation for practice. The positive results reverberate far beyond the country’s mock courtrooms: Every member of the Class of 2019 who completed a Cappello Certificate in Trial Advocacy secured full-time employment in J.D.-required positions before graduation.