Law student wins Top Gun National Mock Trial Championship

Casey Peaden, Jacob Morse and Professor Dan Tilly

RALEIGH — Jacob Morse, a 2017 Campbell Law graduate, won the Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition on June 4 at Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas. In addition to collecting a $10,000 prize, Morse ends his tenure at Campbell Law as the top student advocate in the country.

Morse, who also competed at Top Gun in 2016, recently graduated cum laude and was the law school’s first ever Leadership Scholar Award recipient. He now joins an illustrious list of recent Top Gun national champions, including past winners from Yale Law School (2016) and New York University (2015).

Morse served as the top seed after the preliminary rounds, winning every single judges ballot in besting competitors from Akron University School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center. He later topped student advocates from Harvard Law School and Loyola Law School, Los Angeles prior to defeating the finalist from Syracuse University College of Law in the championship round. Fellow classmate Casey Peaden was Morse’s co-counsel for the entirety of the competition.

“Winning the Top Gun national championship requires academic prowess and advocacy excellence,” said Campbell Law Assistant Professor & Director of the Advocacy Program Dan Tilly. “Jacob is the best student trial lawyer in the country for a reason. We’re proud to bring this home for Campbell Law School.”

“Top Gun is the most academically rigorous activity I have ever encountered,” said Morse. “You must engage with complex legal concepts nonstop over four days, sacrifice sleep and muster the courtroom confidence necessary to face the best trial students in the nation head-to-head. It also takes luck, and most importantly, a teammate and a coach who you can depend on for absolutely anything. I still cannot believe this actually happened.

“When I decided to come to Campbell Law three years ago I had no idea the amount of opportunity and resources I would have. There is not a chance that I could have won this tournament without all of the time, support and energy devoted to the advocacy program and its students on a continuous basis. I am beyond grateful for all that this school has afforded me.”

The national title marks the second of Morse’s career at Campbell Law, adding to the 2016 South Texas Mock Trial Challenge team trophy.
The Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition is an innovative, invitation-only mock trial tournament where the single best advocates from the top 16 trial advocacy schools go head-to-head for the honor of Top Gun.

Unlike other mock trial competitions, participants do not receive the case file until they arrive in Waco, a mere 24 hours before the first round of trials begin. Preparation includes reviewing depositions, records, and photographs and taking a trip to the actual places where events in the case supposedly occurred. Shortly before each round, competitors are assigned a witness or witnesses who may be used at their discretion during the round. The jurors for each round are distinguished trial lawyers and judges.

Prior to Morse, Andrew Shores (L ’13) and Kaitlin Rothecker (L ’15) both placed in the top four at Top Gun just weeks after graduating from Campbell Law.

Morse’s student advocacy career at Campbell Law has been nothing short of amazing.

As a second-year student, Morse helped bring home a team national title from the 2016 South Texas Mock Trial Challenge where he earned an outstanding advocate award in the preliminary rounds, as well as the national best advocate spurs at the conclusion of the Championship round.  At Baylor Law’s Academy of the Advocate program he earned best closing argument and best story telling awards from his colleagues in Scotland.

In his third year, Morse competed in three separate trial tournaments, reaching the championship round at each. At the 2016 National Civil Trial Competition (NCTC) in Santa Monica, Morse and his teammates advanced to the championship round where they finished as national runners-up and he collected the NCTC Award for best advocate in the final round. He later won his second national best advocate spurs at the 2017 South Texas Mock Trial Challenge while helping usher his team to a national runners-up performance.

A native of Mooresville, Morse earned his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC-CH, Morse served in an array of leadership roles including vice president of the student body, student representative to the UNC-CH Board of Trustees University Affairs Committee and the Carolina Union Board of Directors. Morse also served on committees dealing with academic advising, commencement, academic planning, and was chair of the university’s Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor. Morse also participated in the Honors Carolina Burch Field Research Seminar in Washington, D.C., where he held an internship with Representative David Price in the U.S. House of Representatives.