In a program once dominated by men in decades past, six women swept the board elections last spring to lead the prestigious Tulane Moot Court Program at Tulane Law.
It is only one of a handful of times that Tulane Law has had an all-female Moot Court board – the student leaders responsible for the day-to-day planning and coordination of the competitive trial simulation program. Their leadership will be on full display next week when the first round of Intraschool competitions begins Oct. 25
“It’s indicative that more and more women are choosing law school and careers in law,” said Hannah Lafrance, this year’s Chief Justice of the Moot Court Program.
"It’s what law students do when they want to show their passion for careers as litigators."Prof. Janet “Jancy” Hoeffel, Faculty Advisor for the Moot Court Program
Joining her are board members Jamie Davidian, Marron Frith, Kelsey Johnson, Tanisha Manning, and Melissa Ramsey. All will graduate in 2020.
“It seems as though women are becoming more vocal, competitive and unafraid to compete and take on leadership roles,” said Lafrance.
Competitive is the key word there. Moot Court is not for the faint of heart. At Tulane, and elsewhere, students have to compete to make it onto teams. There is reading, writing, arguing at a hectic pace. Law classmates often face each other on different sides of a case to secure positions within competitive teams. Those on traveling teams take on highly-experienced and often professionally-coached groups from law schools around the country.
While the program has always been popular, the law school revitalized the prominence of the Honorary Round two years ago with two significant gifts; one from alumnus Evan Trestman (L ’77) and the second from the law firm of Herman, Herman & Katz, who created the Harry Herman Moot Court Excellence Fund to support the program. Alumnus Maury Herman (L ’68), a partner with the firm, has his own name engraved on the marble from his student moot court days.
Since then, the prestigious Honorary Round, where students compete to have their names carved on the marble tablets in the Wendell H. Gauthier Appellate Moot Court Room, played out before packed houses before a distinguished panel of federal judges. The Moot Court Program now has more than 50 students in competitions throughout the year.
The time to prepare, study case law, submit arguments and prepare for the real practice of law is significant; those who travel for competitions make an extraordinary commitment outside of their normal law school studies.
“It’s what law students do when they want to show their passion for careers as litigators,” said Prof. Janet “Jancy” Hoeffel, who teaches criminal law and is the faculty advisor for the Moot Court Program. “Students don’t get enough practice on litigation techniques, or the opportunity to stand up in court and argue, so this is how you sharpen those skills.”
Skills aside, there are more nuanced reasons for some of these women.
Manning, former Black Law Student Association President, wants to see women of color in leadership positions. And, she says, there is a need “to elevate the importance of advocacy. We need to find our voice, and use oral advocacy in our professional careers.”
And, there is leaving a kind of legacy, improving upon a program that helped you. Not all Moot Court programs are student-run, like Tulane’s, said Ramsey, and that is a source of pride. It is her job to recruit more alumni, judges, and local practitioners take part in judging competitions.
“We are fully student-run and we really need the support of the legal community to help us grow and maintain the quality of the program,” Ramsey said, adding that as competitions get underway, they are looking for volunteer judges for Fall and Spring. Specifically, Moot Court is hosting the Regional ABA Negotiation Competition on Nov. 16-17 and the 25th Annual Mardi Gras Invitational Feb. 18-21.
Who are the Moot Court Program Board members?
Jamie Davidian (L’20). Administrative Justice for Intraschool Competitions. Davidian organizes the Intraschool Competitions for the four Moot Court disciplines, open to second- and third-year law students. She will also coordinate the argue-on process in the Spring for new Moot Court members. Davidian is also an assistant coach for the Mock Trial team, and will be competing in two national competitions this spring. Davidian, who comes from Winchester, Mass., and has a BA from Connecticut College, will be practicing corporate and securities law at a firm in New York after graduation.
Marron Frith (BS ’17, L’20). Administrative Justice for Invitational Competitions. Frith is in charge of organizing the Mardi Gras Invitational and the annual appellate sports law competition that Tulane Moot Court hosts every year in the week before Mardi Gras. Frith competes on the appellate team, specifically in the admiralty law competitions and is the head coach for the John R. Brown Admiralty Moot Court Team. From Lake Providence, La., Frith got her BS from Tulane in 2017, and is planning to practice intellectual property law, specifically patent ligation, after graduation.
Kelsey Johnson (L’20). Administrative Justice for Business Affairs. Johnson manages all the travel (and expenditures) for competitions. She is the keeper of all budgets for Moot Court and works with Tulane’s Development Office to supplement the budget and generate sponsorships. She also assists in coordinating all Tulane Moot Court meetings and oversees any proposed changes to the Moot Court Bylaws and Constitution. Johnson, from Littleton, Colo., competes with the Mock Trial Team. She earned her BA from Villanova, and plans to work in environmental and natural resources litigation.
Hannah Lafrance (L’20). Chief Justice. Lafrance is the top board member over the entirety of the Moot Court program. She acts as a liaison between the program and the law school’s administration, providing assistance for each of the four disciplines. She is a veteran member of the Mock Trial Team and will compete with them during the Spring semester. From Braithwaite, La. and with a BA from LSU, Lafrance plans to stick around New Orleans after graduation, working in civil litigation.
Tanisha Manning (L’20). Administrative Justice of Special Competitions. Manning is the inaugural justice taking on this role, which was established last Spring. In this position, she is the chief host and coordinator of competitions that are held on campus. Most importantly, she is the liaison between Moot Court and BLSA Moot Court, as well as other organizations on campus that host advocacy competitions, such as sports law and through the ABA. This year Manning will coordinate the ABA Negotiations Regional Competition at Tulane. She is also working with the BLSA Moot Court to prepare for the NBSLA and SWBLSA Moot Court Competitions. Manning is a veteran member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Moot Court Team, which competes in negotiation and mediation competitions. Originally from Houston, Texas, she earned a BBA from Philander Smith College, and now has her sights set on practicing public interest law after graduation.
Melissa Ramsey (L’20). Administrative Justice for Academic and Alumni Affairs. Ramsey is the primary board member responsible for communicating with and involving Moot Court alums in the current program. She is also the program's secretary and ensures that all members get academic credit for their work. She is a veteran member of the Mock Trial Team and is competing on Tulane's defense team in this month’s Vino Veritas National Criminal Mock Trial Competition in San Francisco, Calif. From Jackson, Miss., Ramsey earned a BA from the University of Mississippi; she wants to practice civil defense litigation after graduation.