Campbell Law finishes as national runners-up at NITA Tournament of Champions

RALEIGH, N.C. – A team of five Campbell Law student advocates finished as national runners-up at the most prestigious trial advocacy competition in the country. Third-year students Terry Brown, Lauren Fussell, and Kaitlin Rothecker, and second-year students Zoe Hansen and Meredith Mercer reached the championship round of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy’s (NITA) Tournament of Champions, Oct. 16-19, at Baylor School of Law in Waco, Texas.

The team’s participation in the event was sponsored by Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP.

“Campbell Law once again demonstrated that it is among the very best of the best in training lawyers for practice in the courtroom,” said Campbell Law Assistant Professor and Director of Advocacy Dan Tilly, who coached the team. “Terry, Lauren, Kaitlin, Zoe, and Meredith matched up against the brightest, most talented young lawyers in the country. In trial after trial they proved themselves as smart, dynamic courtroom advocates in front of the experienced trial lawyers who judged them. I couldn’t be prouder of their work ethic, determination, and remarkable talent. They represent everything that the Campbell Law advocacy program seeks to achieve in training young lawyers.”

Kaitlin Rothecker, Terry Brown, Meredith Mercer, Lauren Fussell, and Zoe Hansen

One of the premier mock trial competitions in the country, only 16 law schools are invited to the Tournament of Champions each year. Invitations are based on a three year performance record at the National Trial Competition (NTC), the American Association of Justice (AAJ) Trial Competition and previous Tournament of Champions competitions. Over the past three years, Campbell Law teams have collected four regional NTC titles and finished in the AAJ national top 10.

In addition to Campbell Law, other law schools invited to the Tournament of Champions included Akron, Chicago-Kent, Denver, Georgetown, Loyola-LA, Loyola-Chicago, Maryland, Notre Dame, Samford, Stetson, Syracuse, Temple, UC-Berkeley, Washington, and Yale.

Under the competition format, teams may utilize different lawyer/witness combinations. Brown and Rothecker served as the lawyers for the Campbell Law team, representing the plaintiff in some trials and the defense in others. Each day of the competition teams were required to flip between representing one side in the morning and the opposite side in the afternoon. After the first two trials, teams are “power matched” in a format that pits the highest-seeded teams against each other. In the first trial, the team was narrowly defeated by Stetson in a split 2-1 decision. They then prevailed over UC-Berkeley in the second round winning all three ballots. In the third round, Campbell Law was power matched against 2013 national runners-up Loyola-Chicago. Campbell Law represented the plaintiffs in that round and won all three ballots from the scoring trial lawyers. The team then turned around and represented the defense against Syracuse in the fourth round that matched the third and fourth-seeded teams in the competition. Once again, Campbell Law won all three ballots and received strong praise from the judges.

Campbell Law’s team entered the semifinals as the second-seeded team having previously collected 10 of 12 ballots. Yale, UC-Berkeley, and Denver rounded out the semifinalist field. In the semifinals, Campbell Law faced a strong, poised team from Denver. At the conclusion, the presiding judge announced that Campbell Law would be advancing to the national championship final round. Due to the fact that UC-Berkeley and Campbell Law had previously squared off in the preliminary rounds, the teams were required to try the opposite side of the case against each other in the finals.

The championship round was judged by seven well-regarded Texas trial lawyers, all of who remarked on how incredibly close the trial was between the teams. At the conclusion of the championship round, Campbell Law was named national runners-up.

“I am immensely proud of our student advocates,” said Campbell Law Dean J. Rich Leonard. “Their showing at the Tournament of Champions proves that Campbell Law belongs in the discussion when it comes to the nation’s top advocacy programs.”

Prior to last weekend, Campbell Law last appeared at the Tournament of Champions in 2001.

Since its founding in 1976, Campbell Law School has developed lawyers who possess moral conviction, social compassion and professional competence, and who view the law as a calling to serve others. The school has been recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) as having the nation’s top Professionalism Program and by the American Academy of Trial Lawyers for having the nation’s best Trial Advocacy Program. Campbell Law boasts more than 3,650 alumni, including more than 2,500 who reside and work in North Carolina. In September 2009, Campbell Law relocated to a state-of-the-art building in downtown Raleigh. For more information, visit



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