Trial team ends another record-breaking year as the nation’s top squad

June 10, 2024
National Trial Competition champions, left to right: Peter Jones ’24, Sydney Gaskins ’24, Sophia Cherif ’24 and Edouard Goguillon ’24
National Trial Competition champions, left to right: Peter Jones ’24, Sydney Gaskins ’24, Sophia Cherif ’24 and Edouard Goguillon ’24

UCLA School of Law’s A. Barry Cappello Trial Team had another year for the ages. The team won 11 competitions, finished the year at No. 1 in every national ranking and won the National Trial Competition for a record fourth consecutive year.

“The best part of this year’s success was that it was a total team effort,” says Justin Bernstein, who coaches the team and directs the law school’s Cappello Program in Trial Advocacy. “There were 27 students on the trial team. All 27 won a trial, and all 27 qualified for the playoffs at their competitions.”

“The trial team is my greatest source of joy in law school,” says Eddy Chikukwa ’25, a co-president of the team. “The passion my teammates bring to each phase of preparation is infectious, and the skills we learn are relevant. That’s why I love this team: I learn practical skills, and it’s fun.”

The team’s crowning achievement came at the National Trial Competition in April. Sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers and founded in 1975, it is the country’s oldest law school trial competition, as well as the largest, with 317 teams from 169 law schools, some of which enter two teams. There, UCLA Law extended its record streak, prevailing for a fourth straight time as national champions.

But the Bruins did more than win the tournament. For the third year in a row, the championship-round trial pitted UCLA Law’s two teams against each other. The student competitors were Peter Jones ’24, Edouard Goguillon ’24, Sydney Gaskins ’24 and Sophia Cherif ’24. All four are headed to federal clerkships or international law firms. The team was coached by Bernstein and attorneys Avery Hitchcock ’21, a trial team alum, and Nathaniel Warner.

“UCLA Law’s dominance in the trial competition community is crystal clear”

Jared Rosenblatt, Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law

UCLA Law thus ended the year once again at the top of all three national trial competition rankings:

  • Gavel Rankings, run by Hofstra School of Law, awarded UCLA Law 141 points for the 2023-24 season. (The next highest school had 58 points.) It was the fifth consecutive year in which UCLA Law finished No. 1.
  • Trial Competition Performance Rankings, run by Fordham University School of Law, assigned UCLA Law 49 points for the season. (The next highest school had 28 points.) It was the fifth consecutive year in which UCLA Law finished No. 1.
  • The Tournament of Champions, sponsored by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, ranks every law school’s results over the most recent three-year period. UCLA finished the year with an all-time record of 48 points. (The next highest school had 15 points.) It was the fourth year in a row in which UCLA Law ranked No. 1.

“UCLA Law’s dominance in the trial competition community is crystal clear,” says Jared Rosenblatt, a special professor of law at Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law, who runs the Gavel Rankings. “UCLA Law is so far ahead of everyone else that if they didn't compete for the next five years, they would still be ranked first in the nation.”

Alabama judge Jim Roberts directs the trial teams at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law and serves on the Tournament of Champions board of directors. “For the fourth year in a row, UCLA Law has earned the most TOC points in the country – and this year they broke their own record for highest points in TOC history,” he says. “This accomplishment is a testament to the incredible coaching of Professor Bernstein and his leadership of the UCLA Law program.”

Over the course of the season, the Cappello team was assisted by 19 coaches – including 16 alumni. “It’s not a coincidence that our best year was also the year when the most alums coached and mentored our students,” says Bernstein. “We were also fortunate to have help from two wonderful coaches who were new to our program, Nat Warner and Amanda Sadra. I hope they will continue to teach our students for years.”

During the 2023-24 school year, trial team members included Andrew Burnquist ’24, Edouard Goguillon ’24, Eirene Oji ’24, Erica Kelley ’24, Alara Abbasi ’24, Ireland Larsen ’24, Kelly Koehnen ’24, Kim Bittinger ’24, Marisol Alvarez ’24, Max Gordon ’24, Natalie Manoogian ’24, Nolan Cubero ’24, Peter Jones ’24, Sophia Cherif ’24, Sydney Gaskins ’24, Kensington Cotter  ’24, DeAnna Christensen ’25, Eddy Chikukwa ’25, Jade Magaña ’25, Jordain Thompson ’25, Joseph Dale ’25, Micalyn Struble ’25, Nathan Mostow ’25, Nick Boroski ’25, Peter Martin ’25, Rachel Oda ’25, and Sara Delacey ’25.

Coaches included Aidan Welsh ’19, Christian Cotter ’23, Deeksha Kohli ’20, Kyle DeCamp ’19, Avery Hitchock ’21, Nathaniel Warner, Amanda Sadra, Natalie Garson ’22, Jack Eyers ’21, Sarah Stebbins ’23, Enrico Trevisani ’22, Stephen Johnson ’22, Celebre Fouka-Nganga ’23, Tiffany Sarchet ’21, Corey Wilson ’19, Pauline Alarcon ’22, Andrew Gordon ’22, Kenny Capesius ’22 and Justin Bernstein.

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