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UH Law Center students hone advocacy skills in Blakey-Butler Moot Court Competition

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Erica Kuntz, left, and Giancarlo Yaquinto, right, celebrate their victory as the winning team at the 2023 Blakely-Butler Moot Court Competition.

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Aaron Holmes was named Best Speaker at the 2023 Blakely-Butler Moot Court Competition at the University of Houston Law Center.

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Participants in the 2023 Blakely-Butler Moot Court Competition are in the front row, from left, finalist team Aaron Holmes and Erin Kelly, winning team Giancarlo Yaquinto and Erica Kuntz and back row, from left, final round judges Danielle Giaccio, assistant director of UHLC Moot Court Team, Justice Meagan Hassan, 14th Court of Appeals, Houston and William Demond, staff attorney, 5th Court of Appeals, Dallas.

Nov. 30, 2023 — More than 30 University of Houston Law Center students paired up to analyze complex legal issues and deliver compelling oral arguments for the annual intramural Blakely-Butler Moot Court Competition this fall.

“Participating in competitions like this helps you to build oral advocacy skills, and it also helps you to decide if you even want oral advocacy to be a large part of what you do in your career,” said Beth Gallaspy, Blakely-Butler Moot Court Competition Student Director and UHLC 3L.

The duo of UHLC 2Ls, Giancarlo Yaquinto and Erica Kuntz, won for best team and UHLC 3L Aaron Holmes earned the Best Speaker title for the 2023 competition. The competition was hosted by The Advocates, a student organization at the Law Center that promotes the development of oral advocacy skills.

By participating in the competition, students can network with the competition judges who are practicing attorneys, judges and academic leaders. UHLC students can also earn one hour of course credit.

“Students review a moot court problem, which includes fictional district court and appellate court decisions on a fictional case, and prepare arguments for each side of the case,” Gallaspy said. “The problem includes citations to actual cases and statutes, so students read those to find support to back up their arguments.”

Sixteen teams of UHLC students participated in the preliminary rounds of the moot court competition, with eight teams advancing to elimination rounds. Students experienced a simulated courtroom environment, promoting quick thinking, confidence in oral advocacy and further development and understanding of the law. Each team presented appellate and appellee arguments, displaying their versatility and adaptability in arguing from different perspectives.

Gallaspy explained that the competition “is well established and run by a student board with six intramural competitions throughout the year, three in the fall and three in the spring with different law student competition directors.”

In the fall semester, the Advocates host The Tom Newhouse Mediation Competition, The Blakely-Butler Moot Court Competition and the James J. Hippard Open Mock Trial Competition. Spring semester competitions will focus on mock trial, moot court and alternative dispute resolution.

“You can get into a more transactional practice where you don’t have to get up and speak in front of judges if you don’t want to,” Gallaspy said. “This is an opportunity to try things out and helps you to find direction in what you want your law career to look like, gaining practice in building the best argument.”

Jackson Walker sponsored the moot court competition, and cash prizes were awarded to the finalists and overall best speaker.

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