Nation’s Best: UCLA Law Trial Team Wins Tournament of Champions

November 10, 2020
UCLA Law student Delaney Gold-Diamond
UCLA Law student Delaney Gold-Diamond ’21 celebrates the Cappello Trial Team's latest victory.

UCLA School of Law’s top-ranked A. Barry Cappello Trial Team has completed the best weekend in its history, including strong finishes in multiple national competitions and the team’s first-ever victory in the Tournament of Champions, the nation’s premier invitational trial competition.

Between Nov. 5 and Nov. 8, the team also reached the semifinals of the Kelly Competition and finished in second place in the All-Star National Competition. All events were held virtually.

Sponsored by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, the Tournament of Champions is the most exclusive trial competition in the country. Only the 16 law schools with the best records over three years are invited. UCLA Law first qualified for the tournament last year, coming in second.

During this year’s winning campaign, the team of Delaney Gold-Diamond ’21, Chandler Matz ’21, Jack Eyers ’21 and Enrico Trevisani ’22 faced a string of top opponents, including squads from Harvard Law School, UC Berkeley School of Law and Stetson University College of Law. “I came to UCLA largely because I want to be a trial lawyer, and I am getting exactly the skills I will need to succeed,” says Trevisani, who was named best advocate in the championship round.

The squad was coached by Amanda Mundell, an appellate attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, and Justin Bernstein, director of UCLA Law’s A. Barry Cappello Program in Trial Advocacy. (Watch the championship round here.)

The Kelly Competition, hosted by Fordham University School of Law, also limits its field to 16 law schools and is known for a rigorous format in which advocates have limited time to prepare their witnesses, meeting them just 15 minutes before trial. Each team has only two members, so advocates must prepare both sides of the case. It was UCLA Law’s first time in the Kelly Competition, and the team of Seth Wacks ’22 and Kenneth Capesius ’22 reached the semifinals. Capesius also won the award for best opening statement. The team was coached by Alex Bluebond of Vinson & Elkins in Houston, Texas.

The All-Star National Competition was co-hosted by 10 law schools, including UCLA Law, and it was unusually large, with 34 law schools and 136 students. Aside from their current introduction to trial advocacy course at UCLA Law, none of the members of the all-2L team of Pauline Alarcon ’22, Brady Schoenlein ’22, Andrew Gordon ’22 and Kevin Shang ’22 had prior trial advocacy experience. But they placed second in the competition, losing the final round by a single point. Gordon and Shang also won outstanding advocate awards in the preliminary rounds, and Alarcon was named best advocate in the championship round. The team was coached by Bernstein and attorney Melissa Watt of Faruki in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Cappello Trial Team recently rose to No. 1 in the national Trial Competition Performance Rankings, and UCLA Law is the only school in the country with three wins so far in 2020-21. “We keep getting stronger,” says Bernstein, who joined UCLA Law in 2018. “Our students are extraordinary.”

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