KU Law excels during another successful moot court season

Portraits of moot court participants

LAWRENCE – The 2022-2023 moot court season has been another successful one for the University of Kansas School of Law, with many teams placing highly in a variety of competitions. The teams, coached by KU Law faculty and alumni, travel across the country to compete.

Moot court madness

KU Law started the new year strong Jan. 28-29 at the Hunton Andrews Kurth Moot Court National Championship, hosted at the University of Houston and sponsored by the Hunton Andrews Kurth law firm. The competition is invitation-only for the 16 highest-performing moot court programs in the country. KU Law was invited because of the Moot Court Council’s successes last academic year, which resulted in a No. 14 program ranking.

After six rounds, Emily Depew and Jessica Kinnamon, both third-year law students, outperformed that rank by progressing to the Final Four.

“This is the moot court equivalent of March Madness,” said Pamela Keller, clinical professor of law and moot court director. “Jessica and Emily were in a national championship tournament with only the best teams in the country, and they made it to the Final Four. If we had an Allen Fieldhouse for moot court, they would have a banner in the rafters.”

Both students received a scholarship award for their semifinal finish, and Depew received the award for Third Best Oral Advocate in the competition.

Depew and Kinnamon were amazing representatives for the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Center for Excellence in Advocacy, Keller said. “Jayhawk lawyers everywhere would be proud of their performance.”

Three-peat champions

For the third consecutive year, a KU Law team won first place at the National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA) Moot Court Competition, which took place Feb. 25-26 at the University of Oklahoma School of Law.

KU Law was represented by two teams this year: Jade Kearney, second-year law student, and Alex Valin, third-year law student; and Emily Depew, third-year law student and seasoned NNALSA moot court veteran, and Chris Birzer, second-year law student. Both teams advanced to the Elite Eight, with Depew and Birzer pulling out ahead to take home the trophy.

“Emily Depew completed what I believe to be a first,” said Kevin Barnett, third-year law student and secretary of NNALSA. “She has won the competition all three years of her law school career. I can’t speak highly enough of Emily’s talents as an oralist in this competition; now, she is the undisputed three-peat champion of the NNALSA Moot Court Competition.”

Shawn Watts, lecturer in law, said he credited not only the hard work of the students but also the alumni who coached them.

“It is impossible to overstate what incredible alumni coaches we have in Nancy Musick and Chris Carey,” Watts said. “They drive the team’s preparation and success. And, of course, our students show year after year that they are top-notch appellate advocates in federal Indian law.”

“KU Law’s success in winning the last three NNALSA moot court national championships comes down to three factors: faculty and alumni consistently putting in the time judging practice rounds, dedicated students spending countless hours perfecting arguments and an exceptional moot court program leader in Professor Keller,” Depew said. “I was fortunate to have three outstanding partners each of the last three years in Zach Kelsay, Doug Bartel and Chris Birzer as well as the support of Professor Watts.”

Professionalism and collegiality

Continuing the trend of success, Hailey Reed and Karlie Bischoff, second-year law students, competed in the Wagner National Labor & Employment Law Moot Court Competition at New York Law School in early March. They finished the octofinals as the top seed and kept that seed all the way to the final round.

“We were proud to represent KU Law all the way to the final round of the Wagner moot court competition, especially given how prepared and talented our fellow competitors were,” Reed and Bischoff said in a joint statement. “This experience has only increased our appreciation and respect for our coaches, professors and classmates who invested so much time and energy into preparing us for the competition. We are excited to continue representing KU in future competitions during our 3L year.”

Joyce Rosenberg, clinical professor of law and coach for Reed and Bischoff, said the final round was one of the best she had ever heard and that both KU and the Loyola-Chicago team they competed against gave the judges a difficult decision in the end.

“As a coach, I am tremendously impressed with Hailey and Karlie’s professionalism, diligence and teamwork,” Rosenberg said. “They put in hours upon hours of work on their brief and on practice rounds. And I am proud that, in true Jayhawk spirit, many faculty and alumni volunteered to work with them, judge practices and give detailed feedback.”

Bringing home the cup

Two additional KU competitors, Kat Girod and Helen Phillips, third-year law students, brought home the Shapero Cup by winning the Regional Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition in Detroit. They then continued to the national rounds in New York City in the 31st Annual Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition, where they advanced to the Elite Eight.

“Kat and Helen work hard and produce consistently excellent results,” said Stephen Ware, Frank Edwards Tyler Distinguished Professor of Law. “Most lawyers never get a chance to argue before a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, but Kat and Helen have now already done so with top-notch results.”

Girod also took home the award for Best Oral Advocate in the Shapero competition. Sixth Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge noted Girod’s “palpable mastery of the material” and “exemplary” performance. Girod credited Ware for supporting her and Phillips in their success.

“Professor Ware did a fabulous job helping us prepare,” Girod said. “He helps us schedule practice rounds with bankruptcy practitioners, which is an invaluable component of our preparation.”

In a moot court competition, individuals write an appellate brief and give a mock argument before a panel of judges acting as the U.S. Supreme Court. KU Law’s moot court program is currently ranked 14th in the nation based on 2022 rankings from the University of Houston Law Center and has placed in the top 30 nationally for the past six years. Additional highlights from the 2022-2023 moot court competition season include:

  • Rachel Henderson, second-year law student; Hayley Koontz, second-year law student; and Caitlin McPartland, third-year law student, participated in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition on Feb. 22-25. A KU Law advocate was recognized as best oralist in each of the three rounds of competition: Henderson in one and McPartland in two.
  • Emma Bishop, second-year law student; Aylin Jamison, second-year law student; Joan Lee, third-year law student; Justin Shock, second-year law student; and Brien Stonebreaker, third-year law student, participated in the Jessup International Law Moot Court on Feb. 25-26.

Tue, 03/21/2023


Emma Herrman

Media Contacts

Emma Herrman

School of Law