RALEIGH — Campbell Law’s Tatiana Terry ‘19 is the winner of “Top Gun X,” Baylor Law School’s 10th anniversary edition of the Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition.
The Top Gun competition brings together the top 16 trial advocates in the country to crown a single law school trial advocacy champion. Terry’s win is historic. She is the first African American to be named the country’s Top Gun trial advocate and only the third female. Her win also marks the second time that a Campbell Law advocate has taken home the title as the top trial advocate in the country.
Dean J. Rich Leonard proudly declared, “It is ours again!” after Terry’s historic win. “The remarkable Tatiana Terry just claimed the national title as the best student advocate in the country and the $10,000 check that comes with it. Kudos to her co-counsel, Hannah Wallace ’19, her coach, Professor Dan Tilly, and everyone who works to make Campbell Law one of the strongest advocacy law schools in the country. Before today, only Yale School of Law had won Top Gun twice. We are in elite company.”
Terry persuaded an all-star jury of experienced trial attorneys and former Top Gun champions to return a verdict in her favor in the intense final round against Craig Shirley of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.
“This championship is the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Being selected as Campbell Law’s Top Gun advocate is something that I’ve been working toward since I stepped foot on campus,” Terry said. “I’m grateful to everyone who has been part of my journey. I’ve been taught and trained by the very best and have been blessed to be surrounded by outstanding co-counsel and a loving family. Campbell Law’s dedication to training lawyers is a testament to my own success and that of so many other student advocates over the years.”
The Honorable Barbara M.G. Lynn, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, presided over the championship trial.
Becoming the 2019 Top Gun National Champion is the capstone to Terry’s history-making success as an advocate at Campbell Law. She was on the winning team in six advocacy tournaments this year — a feat unmatched by any other advocate in Campbell Law history. Terry and her teammates won the regional and national championship at the National Black Law Student Association (NBLSA) Constance Baker Motley Mock Trial Competition this past spring. During the same two months, Terry and teammate, Katie Webb, first claimed the regional and then national championship at the American Bar Association (ABA) Client Counseling Competition. The duo would then go on to win the Brown Mosten International Client Consultation Competition in Dublin, Ireland, while representing the United States — all firsts for the law school.
Wyrick Robbins financially sponsored the law school’s 2019 Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition team that included Wallace and Tilly, director of the law school’s advocacy program. Wallace is an outstanding advocate in her own right having finished at the top of multiple competitions in her two years as a dual moot-court and mock trial advocate before graduating summa cum laude in May.
Professor Tilly praised Terry’s success, “She is simply the best of the best. Tatiana’s natural talent, relentless drive, and razor-sharp instincts have been recognized time and again as being unmatched — and for good reason. She commands any room she steps into with poise and confidence. It has truly been my privilege to be part of her incredible journey.”
A native of Durham, Terry’s Top Gun Championship caps off the law school’s best year ever in competitive advocacy. Tilly noted, “No other law school has ever claimed national championships in mock trial at the American Association of Justice, National Black Law Student Association and National Top Gun mock trial competitions in the same year. Having done so in the same year that Campbell Law claimed the ABA Client Counseling national championship, and a world championship on behalf of the U.S. at the International Client Consultation Competition, demonstrates the strength of Campbell Law’s advocacy program and its stellar student advocates.”
Celebrating its 10th year, Baylor Law’s Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition is the most challenging invitation-only mock trial tournament in the country. The best advocates from the nation’s top 16 trial advocacy schools compete head-to-head in the winner-take-all tournament. Unlike other mock trial competitions, participants do not receive case files until 24 hours before the first round of trials begin. The competition also boasts the use of advanced trial presentation software and a top prize of $10,000.
The short amount of preparation given includes reviewing depositions, records, photographs and taking trips to the actual places where events in the hypothetical case occurred. Shortly before each round, competitors are assigned a witness or witnesses who may be used at participants’ discretion during the round. Jurors for each round are distinguished trial lawyers and judges, according to Baylor’s website.
“We started Top Gun in 2010 to be an exceptional competition that uniquely challenges the most successful mock trial competitors in the country,” said Gerald Powell, master teacher and The Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence at Baylor Law. “Top Gun gives law student advocates a chance to not only compete against the very best and most talented of their peers. But thanks to our great friends at Naman, Howell Smith & Lee, the Top Gun, the best advocate at the competition will also leave with a $10,000 prize.”
This year marks the fifth time Campbell Law has secured an invitation as one of the top advocacy law schools in the country. Campbell Law has finished in the final four three times — Drew Shores ’13 and Kaitlin Rothecker ’15 — and won the competition once before — Jacob Morse ’17. Professor Tilly has proudly coached all of Campbell Law’s Top Gun advocates.
“This competition is tremendous… there’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into this moment. I’ve been wishing it, hoping it, praying about it for two years,” stated Terry, who attended Baylor Law’s Academy of the Advocate in St Andrews Scotland in 2018, according to Baylor’s news release. “I’ve always envisioned myself as a trial lawyer and this competition is made for people like me.”
Check out more photos from the competition on Baylor’s Facebook page.
ABOUT CAMPBELL LAW
Since its founding in 1976, Campbell Law has developed lawyers who possess moral conviction, social compassion, and professional competence, and who view the law as a calling to serve others. Among its accolades, 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 4,200 alumni, who make their home in nearly all 50 states and beyond. In 2019, Campbell Law is celebrating 40 years of graduating legal leaders and 10 years of being located in a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of North Carolina’s Capital City.