Law students Ashley Akers, left, and Maureen Orth, right, won the National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition hosted March 5-6.

The University is used to acknowledging all sorts of championships in various sports, but another University team just brought home a championship in something a little less known.

Law students Ashley Akers, from Casper, Wyo., and Maureen Orth, from Prairie Villiage, earned first place last weekend at this year’s National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition, which took place at Michigan State University.

Moot Court is when law students argue imaginary legal cases for practice. The competition began with contestants submitting a legal brief about a fictional lawsuit. This year’s competition focused on marijuana on a Native American reservation.

“We spent, I would say, four full weeks drafting our brief and doing nothing really but that,” Akers said.

The briefs were 40 percent of what the contestants were judged on and had to be submitted in January. The remaining 60 percent was focused on each team’s oral argument, which is what took place last weekend in Michigan.

“We’ve practiced probably four hours a week with professors and then three or four hours a week by ourselves,” Akers said. “I mean, at least 10 to 15 hours a week practicing since January.”

Akers said she enjoyed winning because she is so competitive but the real enjoyment came in knowing that it was good for the law school, which dedicates several resources to Moot Court.

“Really winning it is just cool for the law school because it kind of pays off all of the resources that they give to us,” Akers said.

Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner, the University’s coach at the competition, said Moot Court is very beneficial to students in law school.  

“As future lawyers, having strong writing and oral advocacy skills are obviously very important to the students’ future success,” Kronk Warner said. “So we believe that putting money and resources and time into Moot Court competitions is really beneficial for our students.”

Both Akers and Orth credited Kronk Warner for the help and hard work she put in, being there every step of the process, and making sure everybody on the team was fully prepared for the competition. However, Kronk Warner said Akers and Orth made it easier for her to put in all of the effort.  

“In many ways, I’m motivated by their diligence and their hard work and when you see people who are working so hard towards a goal you really want to help them any way that you can,” she said.

Both Orth and Kronk Warner competed at least year’s event in Arizona, when the team finished in second place.  

“I knew from watching the team that won last year what we could improve on to be better. While we were good, the team last year that won was really exceptional,” Orth said.

Orth said she used last year’s second-place finish as motivation for this year.

“I think all semester I was nervous that if we didn’t win we would be disappointed just because we had come so close last year,” Orth said. “So, now it’s a very big relief to know that all of our hard work paid off.”

Akers credited Orth for her extreme knowledge of Native American law for the reason they won, while Orth credited Akers with her experience in other Moot Court competitions.

Kronk Warner, though, said she thought something else pushed them over the top in the eyes of the judges.

“They have that x-factor: that little extra personality that really helped them to sparkle in front of the judges,” Kronk Warner said.

— Edited by Shane Jackson