Pepperdine University School of Law students defeated 39 other law schools and 212 competitors to win the national championship at the fourth annual ABA Labor and Employment Law Trial Advocacy Competition on Jan. 26-27 at the federal courthouse in Chicago, Illinois.
The Pepperdine team, comprising second-year student Sterling Cluff and third-year students Matt Sharbaugh, Ashley Locke, and John Huber, first won the Los Angeles regional competition in November. At the national finals, the team advanced through two preliminary rounds before defeating Miami regional champion Florida State University in the semi-final round and Chicago regional champion Northwestern University in the final round.
Students competed in a mock trial experience involving a complex case of employment termination on religious grounds. The students prepared under the guidance of Pepperdine professors Harry M. Caldwell (team coach) and Maureen Arellano Weston (on-site coach).
"We tackled the problem as if we were in an actual trial instead of a theoretical exercise, and our students advocated as real world trial lawyers," said Caldwell. "I think the judges appreciated the integrity and intensity our students brought to the process."
Competition judges praised Pepperdine's technical skills, professionalism, and ease in the courtroom and consistently said the students' advocacy skills rose to or exceeded the level of attorneys in their courtrooms.
Since 1972, Pepperdine School of Law has had a developed advocacy program competing at the highest levels. This important, time-honored law school tradition, allows students to hone advocacy and public speaking skills while participating in realistic appellate, trial, and dispute resolution proceedings.