With wins in five national trial advocacy competitions, UCLA School of Law’s A. Barry Cappello Trial Team recently completed its most successful fall season ever.
The squad, which has been ranked No. 1 in the country for the past two years, was the only one in the nation to prevail in more than one tournament, leading some to consider the team to have accomplished the most dominant fall season in the history of law school trial advocacy competitions.
“What UCLA Law is doing far exceeds every other school,” says Joe Lester, the associate director of advocacy training and student competitions at American University Washington College of Law. Lester runs Trial Team Central, which tracks results from every major competition. “UCLA’s dominance, particularly over the past 18 months, is unprecedented. They have won more in one year than the best programs win in a decade.”
The trial team’s fall victories include the Tournament of Champions, hosted by the National Board of Trial Advocacy; the National Civil Trial Competition, hosted by Loyola Law School, Los Angeles; the 64-school, single elimination All Star Bracket Challenge, hosted by seven different law schools; the Battle of the Experts, hosted by Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law; and the Summit Cup, hosted by the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. Other top finishes include a second place at Fordham University School of Law’s Judge Paul Joseph Kelly Jr., Invitational Trial Competition and a semifinal showing at Quinnipiac University School of Law’s ABA Criminal Trial Competition.
Nine UCLA Law students won awards for outstanding advocacy at the tournaments in which they participated: Pauline Alarcon ’22, Regina Campbell ’23, Kenneth Capesius ’22, Shasta Fields ’23, Andrew Gordon ’22, Rocky Maas ’22, Sarah Stebbins ’23, Enrico Trevisani ’22, and Seth Wacks ’22.
“The results show that our students are developing the skills they need to succeed in their careers,” says Justin Bernstein, who coaches the trial team and serves as director of UCLA Law’s A. Barry Cappello Program in Trial Advocacy.
At one point during the season, Bernstein notes, UCLA Law won 20 consecutive trials. The team also won two different national competitions in less than 24 hours. In all, UCLA Law won 48 of 56 trials during the fall. Currently, the law school is the reigning champion at 11 different competitions, including the four that are generally considered to be the most prestigious.
“When I started at UCLA Law, I had no mock trial experience. As an aspiring litigator, however, I knew that joining the trial team would give me the skills and experience I lacked,” says Jamie Butts ’22. “After participating in three trials, my confidence in the courtroom has grown exponentially.”
Twenty-eight students contributed to the Cappello Trial Team’s success: Alex Greer ’23, Alexandria Ellison ’23, Amanda Boyd ’23, Amber Dean ’23, Andrew Gordon ’22, Andrew Hill ’22, Brady Schoenlein ’22, Bryn Evans ’22, Celebre Fouka-Nganga ’23, Christian Cotter ’23, Enrico Trevisani ’22, Jamie Butts ’22, Kathryn Rosenfeld ’23, Kenny Capesius ’22, Kevin Shang ’22, Kimaya Abreu ’23, Mykel Skinner ’22, Natalie Garson ’22, Olivia Diab ’22, Pauline Alarcon ’22, Philip Raucci ’23, Regina Campbell ’23, Rocky Maas ’22, Sarah Stebbins ’23, Seth Wacks ’22, Shasta Fields ’23, Stephen Johnson ’22, and Will Lorenzen ’23.
“One of my main goals in law school is to become the best oral advocate I can be to support my future clients,” says Kathryn Rosenfeld ’23. “As a public defender, courtroom skill can be the difference between a client keeping their liberty or going to prison. I am so glad I am honing those skills through the trial team at UCLA Law.”
Because most competitions still take place virtually, team members were able to receive coaching and other mentorship from a great number of leading courtroom advocates, including several UCLA Law alumni, who live and work all over the country: Deeksha Kohli ’20, a litigator in Los Angeles; Brittnee Bui ’20, a litigator in Los Angeles; Aidan Welsh ’19, a prosecutor in Northern California; Corey Wilson ’20, litigator in Northern California; Laureen Bousmail, a public defender in Colorado; Amanda Mundell, an appellate attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.; Melissa Watt, a litigator in Cincinnati; Zach Fields, a clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Alex Bluebond, a litigator in Houston; Ben Wallace, a litigator in Washington, D.C.; Rahul Hari, a litigator in Los Angeles; and J’me Forrest, a federal prosecutor in San Diego.
“Students who come to UCLA Law benefit from unparalleled — and, really, unprecedented — access to incredible trial advocacy coaches,” Bernstein says. “That mentoring is a huge part of our shared success.”