Regional ABA Client Counseling Competition Victory

March 1, 2018

Kaitlyn Pound and Grant Moore2L Kaitlyn Pound and 3L Grant Moore, winners of the Region 11 ABA Client Counseling Competition, head to the national finals competition in March

Texas A&M University School of Law advocacy teams, coached by Adjunct Professor Kay Elliott, won first and third place in the Region 11 American Bar Association (ABA) Client Counseling Competition hosted by Baylor Law School.

3L Grant Moore and 2L Kaitlyn Pound placed first and advanced to the national finals in North Carolina in March. 3L Steven Traeger and 2L Morgan Parker placed third in the competition.

Nine law school teams, including Texas Tech, Baylor, University of Houston and Liberty University, competed in the regional alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practical skills competition held in Waco, Texas, February 17-18, 2018.

“This marks the second competition for Moore and Pound, who competed in the FINRA Securities Dispute Resolution Triathlon last fall and won third place in the arbitration round and the second place Advocates Choice award, with former partner 3L Jonathan Jones,” said ​Advocacy ​Program director Jennifer Ellis.

Kay ElliottAdjunct Professor Kay Elliott, ​ADR coach
Elliott explained this competition is unlike other competitions.

“Client counseling differs from other ADR competitions in several ways. For instance, one of the three judges is a mental health professional. Also, they compete not against another team but against the criteria for excellence, and their communication skills are as important as their legal acumen.”

Pound agreed. “This competition posed a realistic challenge in that we did not know what to expect from each client,” she said.

“Prior to the competition we were given a vague sentence about each client’s problem, but none of the prompts were particularly helpful for identifying potential claims. So, during our time with the clients, we had to quickly identify a variety of different possible claims. This forced us to think on our feet and find legal claims while also balancing the emotional sensitivity of the cases and demonstrate empathy to build rapport with the clients,” said Pound. 

This is Parker’s first ADR competition. Parker said she felt prepared despite the normal competition challenges.

“Kay prepared the teams by working with us to create and follow a proper consultation structure. She also helped with skills such as speaking with empathy, slowing down and alerting us to our use of filler words like ‘so’ and ‘um’ while speaking. She also prepared us for the likelihood of receiving difficult clients and how to handle them,” Parker said.

Pound, Traeger and Moore also said much of their help derived from their professors.

“Kay Elliott really helped us focus on practicing empathy to build rapport with the clients. This was generally the focus of our practice time together. We also met with several professors to review intentional torts, which was the general umbrella for the type of claims to anticipate at this competition,” Pound said.

Traeger said, “Kay has decades of experience learning the ins and outs of this competition — her tips and tricks are directly what led to both our teams doing so well.”

“Kay did a great job of giving us specific advice, such as a general format of an initial consultation, and constructive feedback after practice rounds. She also brought in subject-matter experts, like Professor [Maxine] Harrington, to talk about her impressions of what legal concepts might be at issue,” Moore said.

Elliott also sent the students to the Legal Writing Center for help not just with grammar and syntax, but for ideas about rhetorical devices that help them to better state their argument.

Pound encourages other law students to participate in ADR competitions. “First, competing is fun. Second, competing allows you to take the abstract concepts that you learn in law school and apply them in real life,” Pound said.

“Get on a team,” Traeger said. “The competitions are very valuable because you do take away practical skills from them that I know will be used every day in my practice.”

Learn more about the Texas A&M School of Law Advocacy Program:

The Advocacy Program at Texas A&M School of Law is a key component of Texas A&M School of Law’s Experiential Education program, making Aggie law students practice-ready. Directed by Jennifer Ellis, the Advocacy Program consists of three disciplines: appellate advocacy (moot court), trial advocacy (mock trial) and dispute resolution (mediation, negotiation and client counseling).

Our Moot Court, Mock Trial and Aggie Dispute Resolution teams are nationally recognized. Since the law school’s inception, the program has received:

  • 3 international championships
  • 12 national championships
  • 23 regional championships
  • 1 state championship
  • 1​6 best advocate awards
  • 13 best brief awards

- Article by Tyra Kelly, Communications Specialist, Texas A&M University School of Law