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University of Houston Law Center students win first-ever TEX-ABOTA mock trial competition

University of Houston Law Center Mock Trial Team members and coaches.

Nov. 5, 2021 -  Four University of Houston Law Center Mock Trial Team members won the first TEX-ABOTA Showdown Trial Advocacy Competition last weekend, beating out every other law school in the state of Texas.

UHLC students Laura Gomez Duarte, Brett Hargis, John Herrman and Alejandra Rodriguez secured the win for the Law Center. The team was coached by Judge Christine Weems of the 281st District Court and Director of the University of Houston Law Center’s Mock Trial Program, and Ryan MacLeod of Kherkher Garcia LLP. Additionally, Gomez Duarte was named “Best Advocate” in the competition.

“What makes what these four students did so impressive is that all four of them did this on the heels of competing in another tournament,” said Weems. “The problem was released on Sept. 14, six weeks before this tournament.  All four students were preparing for other tournaments, so we didn't really get to work on the problem until they finished their other competitions. They all agreed to immediately transition over to prepare in only half the time the other teams would have had to get ready.  Clearly, their hard work and commitment paid off because they beat the competition and came out on top.”

During the mock trial, students were evaluated by actual judges who participated in most rounds. The final round included Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht. All 10 Texas law schools competed in the mock trial competition, and UHLC defeated the South Texas College of Law-Houston in the final round to claim the title of “Best in Texas.”

TEX-ABOTA, which is the Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, is comprised of lawyers and judges who are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the civil jury trial right provided by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The organization has 14 chapters across Texas and several committees.

The Law Center Mock Trial Team is part of the Blakely Advocacy Institute and competes in a number of prestigious mock trial competitions across the nation. As part of the team, members gain a heightened understanding of the rules of procedure and evidence, as well as develop strong courtroom skills and persuasion techniques. Participating in mock trials is highly beneficial for aspiring attorneys in any kind of practice since every area of law is predicated on some degree of advocacy. The mock trial gives students the practice of going toe-to-toe with other advocates and articulating their arguments before a judge. 

“Winning this competition is a tremendous, and significant, accomplishment for our students, our coaches and our advocacy program,” said Jim Lawrence, Executive Director of the Blakely Advocacy Institute at the Law Center. “To put it in perspective, Texas mock trial competitions are as competitive as Texas high school football.”

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