Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner is proud to announce that South Texas College of Law Houston has reached the incredible milestone of winning its 100th National Advocacy Title. Many of the lawyers from this firm are graduates of South Texas and many devote their personal time to giving back through coaching, judging, and mentoring young lawyers-to-be at the law school. Many of the lawyers at our firm are ex-advocates from the South Texas program. It has become a tradition at our firm to give back in the form of time, talent, and treasure. Abraham Watkins is extremely proud of what the law school advocacy program has been able to accomplish recently. This is unprecedented.
What is trial advocacy and why is this a big deal? Unlike in high school or college, law school does not offer competitive sports, other than the occasional intramural flag football game. However, for those students who still have a competitive streak and seek to gain practical knowledge about advocating in a courtroom, there is mock trial and moot court. These are the competitive equivalents to sports for the law student. At South Texas College of Law Houston, these two institutions are a way of life.
Mock trial is a simulation of what it is like to try a case to a jury. Students make opening statements, they examine witnesses, enter evidence pursuant to the Federal Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure, and argue their closings to a panel of lawyers as if they were arguing to a real jury. Moot Court, on the other hand, is a simulation of an appellate argument. In that scenario, the students prepare written briefs, which are scored by the judges, and give oral arguments in support of his or her legal position. Make no mistake; these are intense competitions in which the students have spent weeks, if not months, preparing. This is where the law students hone their skills and learn techniques that will aid them in their upcoming legal careers. This is what prepared me to be able to try my first jury trial in my first year out of law school. These skills are not taught in a classroom.
At South Texas, the advocacy program is run by Advocacy Director and Associate Dean T. Gerald Treece. We call him “Coach.” Coach Treece explains it best…”The educational value of competition is that it teaches students to express themselves orally and in writing (with written briefs),” says Treece. “The successful South Texas style is to help the student find within themselves their unique ability to persuade others on matters of importance. It’s conversational, and replaces formality with sincerity and oratory with logic.”
“We are very proud of all of our students who have contributed to this highly successful advocacy program over the past three decades,” says South Texas President and Dean James J. Alfini. The U.S. News and World Report’s national ranking of law schools has included South Texas College of Law Houston in the top 10 every year in the specialty of teaching trial advocacy skills. “By participating in advocacy competitions, our students have demonstrated excellence in both oral and written communication skills, which are always identified as being of paramount importance in preparing for the practice of law,” says Alfini.
The Advocacy teams are coached by Treece, faculty members, and graduates who competed for the college while students. This is the strength of the program, that it is coached by real lawyers practicing right here in our legal community. “We continue to instill the same successful principles in every new group that comes through,” says Treece. “We are very good, and we do it consistently-it’s the spirit of South Texas College of Law Houston.” This is an understatement.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a South Texas: (1) Graduate of 2006, (2) Varsity Mock Trial coach since graduation, and (3) a past National Champion in Mock Trial (Win number 95). I am extremely proud of the students that I continue to coach, and I hope to help make them better lawyers by dedicating my time to teaching them what I learned from the program. Congrats South Texas.