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Yale Trial Advocacy Team Wins National Championship

For the first time in 35 years, Yale Law School has won the National Trial Competition, a nationwide tournament testing trial advocacy abilities. More than 300 teams competed in the tournament at the regional level. The 28 teams that won their regional tournaments were offered a spot at the national championship held in Austin, Texas. After six trials in three days, culminating in the championship round against Loyola L.A., Yale was awarded the national title.

Yale's team included John James "J.J." Snidow '14, who gave opening statements on both sides of the case, Hank Moon '14, who closed for the defense, and Ben Wallace '16, who closed for the plaintiff. Yale was the only team at the national competition who did not have a coach, a fact the tournament hosts said made their win even more impressive.

The case concerned the drug-related death of a famous rock star. The rock star’s much younger wife sued her husband’s management company for hiring a doctor who she claimed caused his death by giving him an injection of an anesthetic drug called propofol. On the plaintiff side, Yale argued that the case was “about a company who hired a doctor as a drug dealer.” On the defense side, the team chose the more aggressive strategy of attacking the motives of the former-dancer-turned-celebrity-widow, claiming that the case was really “about a woman still searching for deep pockets.”

The competition pits teams of two lawyers from each school against one another. Teams try both sides of the case over the course of a single tournament and attorneys are given 15 minutes prior to the start of the case to "woodshed" the witnesses to prepare them to testify. Each attorney gives one statement, one direct examination, and one cross examination, and each competitor is scored by a panel of practicing trial lawyers and judges.

In addition to the National Championship trophy, the team was awarded an endowed prize of $10,000.