Each year, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) hosts fourteen regional student trial advocacy competitions consisting of over 224 teams across the country, with the top team from each region advancing to the national finals.
After winning the regional competition in Seattle this March, the UC Hastings team of 3Ls Pablo Wudka-Robles, Maryam Ahmad, Jon Davidi, and 2L Ellie Barczak competed at the national finals in Raleigh, North Carolina and emerged victorious to become 2018 AAJ National Competition Champions.
The teams were judged on their skills in case preparation, opening statements, use of facts, examination of lay and expert witnesses, and closing arguments in each round. According to Jon Davidi, every round was a test against championship caliber opponents with the quarterfinal matchup versus Stetson University College of Law being particularly challenging.
“Our complex case theory collided with their smooth presentation and the round could have gone either way,” recalls Jon. “We thought it was the end of our journey and we couldn’t hide our excitement after they announced that we made it to the semifinals. We felt like a rising phoenix back from the dead and it helped us become laser focused to win the next two rounds.”
“This was a stunning victory from a grueling competition, insofar as it is the toughest tournament in the country and every round feels like a championship round,” says Coach Geoffrey Hansen, Adjunct Professor at UC Hastings. “To have gone 11-0 throughout the regionals and the national finals was one of the greatest achievements imaginable. Never has a team worked harder or deserved it more. They were absolutely the best.”
“We tried our case eleven times throughout the competitions—six times as the plaintiff and five as the defense. And there wasn’t a single time during any of those trials where I didn’t trust my teammates completely to be the smartest, most eloquent, most prepared, and most thoughtful people in the courtroom,” says Pablo.
This was the first time a UC Hastings team competed in the AAJ National Competition, which added to the magnitude of their victory. “It was a great feeling just even make it to nationals,” says Jon. “Now, we won the whole thing. Surreal.”
“Competing at both the regional and national levels was rigorous, grueling, and yet exhilarating,” says Maryam. “Our victory symbolizes more than just a win. It symbolizes months of hard work, dedication, and, most importantly, teamwork.”
The team not only relied upon each other, but also received support, guidance, mentoring, and instruction from a close-knit community of coaches and teammates to help them become recognized as the best law school advocates in the country.
“I’d like to thank Briana Curran ‘13, Lauren Birnbaum ‘13, Professor Shanin Specter, 2L Kirche Ray, Sarah Hawkins ‘08, and all the others who helped coach this squad and have come before to make this happen,” concludes Coach Hansen. “You are all National Champions!”