LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 20, 2003) -- Six weeks of long, early morning practices paid off for the University of Kentucky College of Law’s mock trial team as it succeeded in finishing in a nationwide competition with the highest ranking in the college’s history.
The College of Law’s mock trial team, consisting of third-year students, Laura Ball, Nute Bonner, Lynsie Gaddis, and Clayton Oswald, competed in the Tournament of Champions, an invitational competition in which the top 16 teams throughout the nation contend for the national title. UK finished fifth, winning three out of four trials.
“It truly was an honor to be invited,” said Allison Connelly, associate clinical professor of law, director of the college's Legal Clinic and adviser to the group.
Teams are selected for the tournament based on their performances from the past three years of competitions. All five of the team members said they felt honored to even be invited.
“It’s a big deal to get invited,” said Bonner.
“It’s an experience you can’t get any where else so we were very fortunate to have the chance to be there,” said Gaddis.
The competition takes place in a courtroom with lawyers acting as the jury. Each team is given the same scenario. This year the teams were given a burglary case to argue.
“We were prepared for the case,” Gaddis said. “Everyone pretty much knew how things would go so it wasn't brand new,” she said.
Each team of four is split into pairs. One set acts as the prosecutor and the other set acts as the defense. Both try the case against another school’s team.
Gaddis and Bonner competed on previous teams and were able to lend their experience to Ball and Oswald.
“Their previous experience helped. They laid the groundwork for us,” Ball said.
Oswald shadowed the spring team last year and was able to draw on his experiences from then to help this year he said.
UK won their first three trials, but lost the last trial. “It was so close the judges had to retally the scores several times. We were disappointed when we heard we didn't make it to the next round - only because we thought we did so well on that fourth trial,” Gaddis said.
Once they found out they had finished higher than any other previous UK team, it made fifth place a little more gratifying.
“That softened the blow, but it was still rough because we thought we did well enough to make it to the next round,” said Bonner.
The team members say they owe all their success to their coach.
“Professor Connelly has worked so hard that we just increasingly do better every time and that just gets us closer to a national title,” Gaddis said.
Connelly took over the team in 1997 and quickly started building a reputation of excellence, Gaddis added.
“She has built the program up to what it is now and she is the reason that it is doing so well,” Ball said.
“It’s one thing for us to devote four or five days a week because this is making us better attorneys,” Gaddis said. “But professor Connelly showed up to practice every time, even after running the legal clinic, teaching classes, and working on a brief, only to make us better attorneys,” she said.
Connelly, raised in Ashland, Ky., is a 1983 UK Law School graduate and a former Kentucky public advocate and public defender. She became an adjunct professor at UK in 1986 and then a full time professor and team coach in 1997.
Connelly was thrilled for her team, despite the upset.
"I'm so proud of these students," Connelly said. “They've already exceeded my expectations.”
This is the second time UK has been invited to the competition. Last year the team placed 14th out of 16 teams.
“The more tournaments you go to, the more you learn from other schools and the more you can figure out what styles judges like,” Gaddis said.
All of the current team members plan to try out for next year’s trial team.
“We are too close to that national title to stop now,” Gaddis said. “We have the drive to succeed more than ever now.”