Posted: March 13th, 2017 | By: Lisa Snedeker
For the third time in as many years, Wake Forest Law’s AAJ Trial Team has won the Regional Championship and is heading for the national competition in April in Cleveland, Ohio. And for the second year in a row, it was an all Wake Forest final round, says AAJ Trial Team Coach Matt Breeding (’06).
“From the season’s beginning, both teams were told that they themselves controlled the outcome of the competition – a challenge that they embraced,” Breeding wrote to the law school in an e-mail, which follows.
“Their coach assigned two captains. First, the brilliant and surgical Mia Falzarano (JD ’18), who had already proven herself as one of the greatest advocates in school history following last year’s AAJ regional championship, third place finish at nationals, subsequent invitation to compete in the Fall’s prestigious Tournament of Champions, and this year’s moot court national championship. The second captain was the formidable and supremely talented Kendra Stark (JD ’18).
“Both captains excelled in their roles, distilling each lesson and every principle of trial advocacy learned in our vigorously competitive practice rounds and imparting them to their rapidly improving teammates. As the tournament drew closer, it was a coin flip as to which team would walk away with the title.
“Falzarano’s teammates included the always charming and engaging Drew Culler (JD ’17) with his innate improvisational brilliance, the affable Ethan White (JD ’17) with his infectious and incisive wit, and the poised Cheslie Kryst (JD/MBA ’17) with her regal command of the courtroom and her evocative arguments that often left judges literally at a loss for words. Stark’s squad was equally gifted. First, there was the fearsome Anna-Bryce Flowe (JD ’18), who effortlessly strode the tight-rope between kind and unflinchingly authoritative. She was paired with the honest and ultra-intelligent Libby Casale (JD ’18) and her contagious authenticity. Stark’s partner was the year’s most improved advocate: the genuinely good-hearted and courageous Katherine Ririe (JD ’18) who learned to elicit every piece of important testimony with a warm smile, no matter how crippling to the opponent’s case.
“Both teams navigated the preliminary rounds with Wake Forest’s hallmark grace, poise and professionalism, never losing sight of our school’s emphasis on honesty and fair play. At the end of two grueling days of preliminaries, both teams advanced to regional semifinals. Going into the final four, Stark’s team was the top seed, having swept every judge in every round. Falzarano’s team was ranked fourth, having lost only one close round to a University of North Carolina School of Law team we would meet again in the semifinals.
“In that semifinal round, Flowe and Casale defeated UNC decisively, receiving effusive praise from the judges for their confidence and tenacity. After Kryst and White effortlessly overcame an overmatched team from William & Mary law school, our two teams squared off in the finals for the right to represent our school in April’s national tournament in Cleveland.
“In one of the closest rounds in tournament history, Falzarano and Culler narrowly defeated Stark and Ririe. All three received glowing feedback from the judges, including Justice Barbara Jackson of the North Carolina Supreme Court. However, it was what this illustrious panel of judges said about Stark that stood out the most, describing her cross-examination of the plaintiff’s expert as ‘eviscerating’ and her control of the courtroom and the rules of evidence as ‘masterful.’
“Watching Stark compete in that round would have made every Wake Forest Law student, supporter and alumnus proud. She demonstrated a calm command that will forever be an aspirational benchmark for this trial team. In the end, however, it was not enough to overcome Falzarano’s veteran leadership and rhetorical flair and Cullers’s charm and felicity of expression.
“Please join me in congratulating all eight competitors for a job well done. They were amazing. I could not be prouder of this group of young lawyers.”