Fourth National Championship Underscores Law School’s Success

Student team bests squads from 13 other finalist schools

Patrick Everman, chair of the Negotiation Board and student coach; Drew Taggart; Brad Cook; and Professor Mercer Bullard, faculty coach

Patrick Everman, chair of the Negotiation Board and student coach; Drew Taggart; Brad Cook; and Professor Mercer Bullard, faculty coach

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law continues to pile on the accolades, recently winning its fourth national championship this year.

The latest championship, coming at the hands of Brad Cook and Drew Taggart, both third-year law students, was captured at the 2014 National Transactional LawMeets Competition April 4 in New York City.

Cook and Taggart, from Stonewall and Madison, respectively, beat 13 other national finalist teams including Boston College, Cornell University, Emory University and University of Tennessee, and won one of seven regional competitions involving 84 teams to earn a spot at nationals.

“This victory powerfully reflects the strength of the student body at the School of Law, as you can see from the quality of the other teams at the national finals in New York,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean and adviser to the moot court board.

“It represents an enormous success for Brad and Drew, who poured hours into this competition, but it is also a product of the efforts of the entire Negotiation Board, Professor Mercer Bullard and of the team. We are so proud of all of them.”

The national rounds were hosted by Sullivan & Cromwell LLP’s New York office. The competition asked teams to represent one of two sides in drafting and negotiating an acquisition of a biotechnology company. Over the past several months, the students drafted agreements, interviewed their clients and marked up opposing teams’ drafts. The national rounds of the competition culminated with rounds of face-to-face negotiations April 3-4.

“The problem was released mid-December and a lot of work was put in speaking with attorneys figuring out what to put in the acquisition,” Taggart said. “It was one of the most effective practical experiences I’ve had as a law student.”

Fourteen senior practitioners served as judges at the national rounds, hailing from workplaces such as Safeguard Scientifics, Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Pfizer, Rothschild Inc. and Bloomberg Law, among others.

“Some of the most encouraging words we received were from the judges who said they were willing to put us up against some of their fifth- and sixth-year associates,” Taggart said. “That was unbelievably encouraging.”

The UM law school’s Business Law Institute provides Taggart and other students with opportunities such as this. The institute, whose mission is “to train great business lawyers,” ties together a number of initiatives including:

- A Business Law certificate

- Negotiation Board that fields several intercollegiate competition teams

- 1L Skill Session course devoted to Contract Drafting and Negotiation

- Upper-level courses on Lawyers as Entrepreneurs, Client Interviewing and Counseling, and How to Do a Film Deal

- Transactional and Taxpayer Assistance Clinics

- Externships with governmental agencies that regulate business

- The Mississippi Business Law Reporter, a brand-new journal

- Business Law Network, a student group that recently organized the inaugural Business Law Conference

This structure, in combination with victories such as this latest triumph, seems to set Ole Miss law students apart.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students to work with faculty very closely, to write and to argue,” said Richard Gershon, the school’s dean. “This fourth championship was at Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the top law firms in the world, and our students were chosen to be the best. That says a lot.”

Taggart agrees with the significance of the win.

“My favorite part about this whole experience was learning that we can compete with anyone nationally,” he said. “I definitely learned people respect us.”

Famed Civil Rights Leader to Speak at Law Commencement

U.S. Rep. John Lewis recognized as one of the nation's equal rights pioneers


U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law welcomes U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) as the featured speaker at the school’s graduation, set for 11 a.m. May 10 in the Grove.

Lewis will speak at the law school’s individual ceremony, which follows the main university Commencement at 9 a.m.

“Congressman Lewis is a hero of the civil rights movement,” said Richard Gershon, law school dean. “He is a great speaker, and I know our graduates will benefit from him being here.”

Lewis, often called one of the most courageous people of the civil rights movement, is known for his efforts in protecting and securing human rights and civil freedoms. He is a nationally recognized leader and was one of the main players in the March on Washington in 1963.

“Lawyers can accomplish a great deal to build a more fair, more just society, and my history is living proof of their ability to help transform America for the better,” Lewis said. “I feel very honored to be asked to deliver the commencement address at the University of Mississippi law school.”

Lewis is the winner of numerous awards, including the highest civilian honor granted by President Barack Obama, the Medal of Freedom, as well as the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence and the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

He is senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.

“As a member of Congress, he has had an impact on the law and has worked to make sure that every citizen enjoys the rights and protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution,” Gershon said.

The law school will graduate 152 students at the ceremony, which includes the keynote speaker, an address by Gershon, and an address by Marcus Williams, the law school student body president. Mississippi Bar President Guy Mitchell will also speak to graduates.

For more information about the law school’s commencement, please visit the law school’s commencement page.

Free Legal Advice For Family Law Issues April 3

Law Clinic

Law Clinic

A FREE FAMILY LAW LEGAL CLINIC sponsored by the UM Law School’s Pro Bono Initiative and the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers’ Project on April 3 at 1:00 at the law school.

Attorneys and law students will provide free legal advice and assist with drafting complaints for divorce, guardianship, custody and visitation, and child support on April 3.

Call (601) 960-9577 to see if you are income eligible for this service and to make an appointment. YOU MUST HAVE AN APPOINTMENT. NO WALK-INS.

Ole Miss Law Makes History with Third National Title

Win makes third championship this year, a first in school history

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law made history this weekend by grabbing its third moot court national championship this year, the first time the law school has achieved such a milestone.

Second-year students David Fletcher of Jackson and Brett Grantham of Corinth, along with third-year Will Widman of Birmingham, Ala., won the National Professional Responsibility Moot Court Competition at Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

“This level of repeated success is really an extraordinary testament to both the depth and quality of our advocacy programs and our student body,” said Richard Gershon, the school’s dean. “Further, it demonstrates the commitment of our faculty to national-caliber instruction – and not just in the traditional classroom.”

The win came just weeks after national championships were obtained at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition and the Gabrielli National Family Law Moot Court Competition, both in New York. Ole Miss has won the environmental law championship three times in the past four years.

“This year has been a true testament to what we can accomplish when we work hard together from beginning to end,” said Irving Jones, chairman of the law school’s moot court board. “I am very proud to be a part of this organization and also very proud of how we have represented this university.”

The professional responsibility team competed against several nationally ranked moot court teams, including Chicago-Kent, Stetson and Florida Coastal in the final round. Widman won the Best Oralist Award in the final round and the team won the Best Brief Award for the respondent, which made them first seed going into the elimination rounds.

“We had been working on this problem since November, so it was a relief that all of the work that the team put in definitely paid off,” Fletcher said. “We’ve been mooting every day since February, twice a day during spring break, and even in Indianapolis with each other. If anything, I’ve learned what people mean when they say you can never be too prepared.”

The competition included a brief submission and oral arguments. Each brief was scored by a panel of judges to compile an average brief score, which was used throughout the competition.

During the preliminary rounds, each team’s score was determined by combining the brief (35 percent) and oral argument (65 percent) scores. During the elimination rounds, teams were scored solely on their oral argument performance, which were judged on reasoning and logic; ability to answer questions; persuasiveness; knowledge and use of the facts; knowledge and use of the controlling law; and courtroom demeanor and professionalism, according to McKinney School of Law.

“These three guys worked incredibly hard for weeks, through spring break, and beat Florida Coastal in the final round,” Jones said. “Winning this competition is an amazing achievement, and we are so proud of them for their success and dedication to the board.”

UM Family Law Moot Court Team Wins National Title

Win marks school's second championship this year

Student Coach Rhodes Berry, Eric Duke, Trey Lyons and Professor and Coach Sam Davis

Student Coach Rhodes Berry, Eric Duke, Trey Lyons and Professor and Coach Sam Davis

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law won its second national moot court championship this year, this time in family law. The win was secured March 1 by second-year students Trey Lyons and Eric Duke at the Gabrielli National Moot Court Competition at Albany Law School in New York.

The student pair defeated a team from Seton Hall School of Law in the final round. More than 20 other schools participated, including the LSU School of Law, Florida State University School of Law, New York Law School and Wake Forest.

“The family law national championship demonstrates concretely the depth of talent we have at the law school: many students capable of top-flight advocacy,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean for academic affairs and faculty adviser to the moot court board. “But it also shows the institutional commitment we have made to the students; we have multiple professors dedicated to providing students with the time and expertise needed to prepare for success on the national stage.”

For the competition, the students argue unresolved issues in family law by submitting a brief and through oral arguments the weekend of the competition.

Two preliminary rounds proceeded eliminations, and the 16 teams with the highest scores (50 percent brief and 50 percent oral argument) advanced. Scoring for the semifinals was based on 90 percent judges’ score and 10 percent brief score, and the finals were based solely upon the judges’ votes.

“We knew we had to beat them (Seton Hall) flat-out in oral argument,” Lyons said. “These judges and justices who judged the competition actually wrote the opinions of these cases. They were the absolute best captive audience you could hope for.”

The students were coached by Sam Davis, professor of law and Jamie L. Whitten chair of law and government. A handful of others helped the team, including Hall; Debbie Bell, associate dean for clinical programs; Jack Nowlin, associate dean for faculty development; and Scott DeLeve, public services law librarian. Rhodes Berry, the Moot Court Board’s appellate advocacy chair and a third-year student, also helped and accompanied the team to New York.

“I am extremely proud of them,” Davis said. “Rhodes deserves much of the credit because of his hard work, as well as the faculty members who did practice rounds.”

The competition honors the late Associate Judge Domenick L. Gabrielli of the New York State Court of Appeals, who supported moot court advocacy for many years.

“I know the single most important thing to take away from this is the way I present myself in the courtroom,” said Lyons, of Mooreville. “Dean Hall told us the best way you can ever win is by a hair’s worth of difference, not by being a bulldog. I learned he’s absolutely right.”

The School of Law’s Environmental Law Moot Court team also won its third national championship in four years this year at the Pace Environmental Law Moot Court Competition in White Plains, N.Y.

Ole Miss Law Moot Court Team Wins National Championship

Title is third in four years for law school team


Caroline Shepard, Professor David Case and Irving Jones pictured with John Hulsey’s painting of Storm King Mountain, which commemorates one of the pivotal court decisions inaugurating the field of environmental law. The original painting serves as the traveling trophy each year and goes home with the winner of the competition.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law took first place at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, held Feb. 22 at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y. The victory marks the third national championship in four years for the law school.

The school’s team, composed of second-year law student Caroline Shepard of Milton, Ga. and third-year law student Irving Jones of Washington, D.C., defeated 75 other law schools, including Yale and Indiana University in the semifinal round and LSU and the University of Utah in the final round.

According to Pace’s website, the competition is the largest interschool moot court competition in the nation, regularly attracting more than 200 students from various law schools to compete and 200 attorneys to serve as judges.

“The Pace competition is one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious law school moot court competitions in the country,” said David Case, the team’s coach and UM associate professor of law. “Winning a third national championship demonstrates that students of the Ole Miss law school can compete at the very highest level nationally.”

The competition tests skills in appellate brief writing and oral advocacy on issues taken from real cases. Before the competition, teams write and file a brief for one of three respective parties’ legal positions, and then the oral phase of the competition begins in February, where each team must argue all three sides, taking a different side during each of the three preliminary rounds. The teams with the highest combined scores for both the written brief and oral argument advance.

Shepard won the Best Oralist Award in first preliminary round, and Jones won in the second and third preliminary rounds. Judging the final round of the competition were the Honorable Lynn Adelman, judge of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin; the Honorable Malachy E. Mannion, judge of the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and the Honorable Randolph Hill, judge of the Environmental Appeals Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The entire law school community is proud of this championship,” said Richard Gershon, UM law dean. “Professors Case and Showalter-Otts have coached three different sets of students to the national championship at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. This is an indication of the strength of our advocacy program, in general.”

Coaches include Case and Stephanie Showalter Otts, both professors at the UM School of Law. Case is a nationally recognized scholar on environmental regulation and management topics, and holds a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies: environmental law, management and policy from Vanderbilt University. Otts is director of the National Sea Grant Law Center, a program that works to ensure the wise stewardship of marine resources through research, education, outreach and technology transfer.

For more information, contact Jenny Kate Luster at or 662-915-3424. For more information on programs at the UM School of Law, go to

Easing the Pain of Tax Time

Two programs offer free help to make filing taxes a bit easier

OXFORD, Miss. – It’s one of the things you can count on: taxes. As the time arrives to begin thinking about filing 2013 tax returns, two programs featuring University of Mississippi law and accountancy students are providing free assistance to the community.

Second- and third-year Ole Miss law students will provide full-service tax preparation for basic federal and state returns. Through April 8, students participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance clinic will be available from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Oxford-Lafayette County Library, 401 Bramlett Blvd. Assistance is free for people whose combined annual household income is less than $52,000.

Last year, the clinic students donated more than 1, 000 volunteer hours and completed nearly 250 returns that generated nearly $250,000 in refunds. Both the community and the student volunteers benefit from the experience, said Adrea Watford, clinic site director and a third-year law student.Read the story …

UM Student Tackles Sales Tax Issue

Madison Coburn credits Honors College, Lott Institute with teaching her to think critically

Madison Coburn

OXFORD, Miss. – Ask any student what he or she finds interesting, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one who answers with the field of tax litigation. But with many Mississippi cities pushing for an increase in sales tax to improve crumbling infrastructure, young people like Ridgeland native Madison Coburn understand that knowledge of the field is critical to tackling such complex issues.

“Specifically, my honors thesis focuses on federal and state policies that would enable states to collect sales tax from online purchases,” said Coburn, a senior majoring in public policy leadership at the University of Mississippi. “Having researched for my thesis for over a year now, I have learned that I find the area of taxation particularly interesting and believe I would be interested in tax litigation.”

Coburn is researching the legislation, officially called the Marketplace Fairness Act, that would allow states to require Internet sellers to collect state sales taxes just like physical retail stores.

“The Marketplace Fairness Act is an incredibly important topic to study, given the changing nature of interstate commerce,” said Eric Weber, UM associate professor of public policy leadership. “Companies like Amazon have changed the way we do business, but they have also had the advantage of avoiding sales taxes, which local retailers and booksellers have reasonably found unfair.

“Madison is evaluating the policy options available to Mississippi for making the wisest decision for our state.”

Read the story …

Expungement Clinic Set for UM School of Law

Participants can learn more about possibility of removing convictions from their records

UM School of Law

OXFORD, Miss. –The University of Mississippi School of Law is hosting an expungement clinic Feb. 22 for anyone interested in finding out how to erase their criminal record.

Set for 10 a.m.-noon in Room 1078 of the law center, the clinic is sponsored by the Magnolia Bar Association, the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and the School of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative and Black Law Students Association.

An expungement is the process of legally destroying, obliterating or striking out records or information in files, computers and other depositories related to criminal charges.Read the story …

NerdWallet: Space Tourism Insurance: What Happens When You Crash into a Space Station?

For tourists, space travel represents an exciting and unexplored frontier. For insurers, the prospect of insuring commercial space travel offers great opportunity, but it is also riddled with uncertainty.

Companies such as Space X and Virgin Galactic are taking steps to offer space tourism to the mainstream public. If Space X and Virgin Galactic succeed in providing mainstream commercial space flight, they will need to offer insurance. Insurance helps commercial space flight operators to better manage and assess risk and therefore allow them to grow. However, since commercial space flight is a fledgling industry, insurers will have trouble calculating insurance risks and premiums.

“In my opinion, two of the most pressing issues faced by insurance companies hoping to cover space tourism is first, lack of a track record upon which a statistical analysis can be made,” University of Mississippi Professor Joanne Gabrynowicz said. “The second is a large enough pool of funds that needs to be available in the event a claim is made for which a payment has to be made.”

Read the story.