Four UC Hastings students won first place this month in the San Francisco regional of the 12th Annual American Bar Association Law Student Trial Advocacy Competition.
In January, the team that bested Berkeley Law during the regional’s final round — Chelsea Heaney, Mira Karageorge, Justin Page and Hannah Worek, all 3Ls — will travel to New Orleans to compete for UC Hastings against seven other regional teams for the prestigious national ABA mock trial title.
“Berkeley had obviously sent their best,” says Page, 24, who first became enamored with the law when he was 9. “This was the hardest round at a mock trial that I’ve ever had in my life.”
These proceedings are very close to the real thing. Students have four weeks to study voluminous documentation of real cases, in this instance, about 200 pages covering Parker v. Bettencourt Aviation Inc. and Robin Alley, an employment/labor law trial. Then, during a two-day mock trial, students deliver opening statements, do direct and cross examination questioning of witnesses, also law students, and deliver closing arguments, all in front of mock juries made up of actual lawyers and judges.
But students don’t excel at this level without help from coaches, in this instance, from UC Hastings adjunct professor Geoff Hansen, chief assistant federal public defender in San Francisco and Briana Curran ’13, an associate at Bledsoe, Diestel, Treppa & Crane LLP also in San Francisco.
“These UC Hastings students are just a joy to work with,” says Curran. “Because they aren’t newbies, we were able to focus on honing their presentation skills and getting their theory of the case as streamlined and cohesive as possible. I think all four of them really did a tremendous job.”
Page also credits the UC Hastings team’s success to the close connection he’s developed with Worek, his co-counsel, and to the tight-knit teamwork the pair has perfected with their teammates, Heaney and Karageorge. All four pride themselves on their abilities to spot weaknesses in the opposing team’s case during mock trial proceedings and to exploit them by thinking on their feet and acting quickly.
“There are teams that script themselves, with a speech they memorize word for word, and there are rare teams like ours, that don’t come with scripts,” says Page, who during the regional’s final round noticed one Berkeley Law student offering up a fact that wasn’t in the case record. He used that slipup to devastating effect during his closing argument. “We like to improv in the moment, because if someone messes up it’s very easy to jump off and talk about what they did wrong.”