GULFPORT — National Jurist magazine again lists Stetson University College of Law’s moot court among the best 20 programs in the nation during this decade.
Currently, Stetson’s Moot Court Board is ranked third on the list of the top 16 moot court programs for the 2016-2017 school year and is ranked sixth among the 20 best moot courts of the decade.
Many factors distinguish Stetson’s school from others, Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz, dean and law professor at Stetson University College of Law, told the Florida Record.
Stetson has more than 100 years of blending legal doctrine with practical training and it has been named the top law school in the nation for trial advocacy 18 times by U.S. News & World Report since the rankings began in 1995, he said. Additionally, the school has ranked in the top six legal writing programs since the inception of the legal writing rankings, an equally important tradition of excellence in advocacy.
“Given that moot court involves both oral and written advocacy, the fact that Stetson’s legal writing program is widely recognized contributes to our unique structure,” Pietruszkiewicz said.
The fact that the moot court is directed by a the thoughtful and dedicated professor, Brooke Bowman, also makes it successful, he said.
Bowman works well with “students to instill a work ethic that helps them as they prepare for their professional careers and adds to their understanding that their work in law school translates directly into their success as lawyers," Pietruszkiewicz said. "So many of her students – and of our judges and coaches that help us – have become accomplished advocates. Those kinds of results in law school and in their careers serve as great motivation for future law students.”
What makes Stetson’s Moot Court Board unique is the Stetson community and having full-time faculty members coach most of the moot court teams, Pietruszkiewicz said.
“At Stetson, advocacy education has always been an essential component of our commitment to skills-based learning from teaching the first trial advocacy course in 1901 to expanding our facilities to include six teaching courtrooms," he said.
To highlight this area of distinctiveness, Stetson created an online LL.M. program in advocacy and a joint degree, J.D/LL.M. program in advocacy. They are designed to foster participants' development into full-spectrum legal advocates by challenging common assumptions about advocacy, encouraging personal growth and teaching students how to couple advocacy skills with sound legal analysis, Pietruszkiewicz said.
In the advocacy areas, such as moot court, trial advocacy and dispute resolution, Stetson students have won 68 national championships, 76 regional championships, 44 state championships, 55 brief awards, 142 best oralist/best advocate awards and five professionalism awards since 1980.
Stetson students placed first and a Stetson student won the Best Oralist Award in the Andrews Kurth National Moot Court Championship in 2015, an invitation-only tournament for the top 16 moot court programs. In 2005, Stetson was the world champion and won an honorable mention best oralist award at the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court Competition. Stetson became the first American law school since 1996 to win the international competition.
Since 2010, law school applications have declined nationally. To drum up more interest, law schools have tried to come with creative ways to blend doctrine with skills-based learning to help students become better prepared for practice much earlier in their careers. Stetson has been doing this from the beginning.
“For Stetson, this has been our history since our founding in 1900 as Florida’s first law school," Pietruszkiewicz said. "When students graduate from law school and throughout their careers, they advocate on behalf of clients with the ability to think on their feet in the courtroom, communicate persuasively and represent clients with a deep understanding of the law. We know that these skills make successful lawyers.”
Also, Stetson is among the National Jurist’s list of 40 law schools in the country where students outperform on the bar exam based on their LSAT scores. Stetson offers a Bar Prep Portal for students with access to bar prep resources, including the Stetson Bar Boot Camp.