MSU?Law Moot Court team takes home top spot at regional competition

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The American Bankruptcy Institute hosted the third-annual Midwest regional Shapero Cup Moot Court Competition and Symposium on February 15. Held in a virtual format this year, the competition is intended to prepare teams for the national Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition (hosted by St. John's University and the American Bankruptcy Institute).

The team of oralists Austin Pattan and Kristopher Larsen, with briefwriter Konrad Starostka, represented Michigan State University College of Law at the competition. Their coach, Alex Sheldon-Smith competed at the same event when he was a 3L.

All three team members were new to Moot Court, so Sheldon-Smith offered valuable guidance throughout the process. “I learned a lot from working with Alex, especially how diligent you need to be to be successful in Moot Court. Alex kind of engrained that in us from the beginning. He expected each practice round to be taken as seriously as we would take the real competition,” Pattan explained. “He was structured, and you could tell he took it really seriously. I thought he was an outstanding coach.”

The Shapero Cup is a one-day event, which added to the intensity of the experience. “There were two preliminary rounds and after each preliminary, you got judge feedback. They let you know what they didn’t like more than anything, so you had to have some tough skin throughout that,” said Larsen. “We were arguing both sides throughout – respondent and petitioner. We had to have a couple different hats on throughout the day.”

As the competition carried out, the team had mixed assessments of how they felt about their performance. “I had no idea how we were doing. I think Kris had quite a bit more confidence in us than I did,” said Pattan. “We wrote for the petitioner; our brief was on the petitioner side. I don’t know that I was fully comfortable with the respondent argument yet, so it was very trial by fire for me, and each time I was very uncertain as to whether we were going to advance.”

The team made it to the semifinals, defeating the University of Memphis to compete against the University of Michigan in the final round. Fighting off fatigue and pushing through an intense, full day of competition, the MSU College of Law team came out on top with the winning argument, and Larsen was also recognized as the second place oralist.

“I think one of the things that was so cool about this team is the harder one of us was working, and we saw the work that was being put into it, everyone just kind of rose with the tide,” Larsen noted.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” Starostka added. “I never did Moot Court before, but this set the bar incredibly high. We all work really well together, there’s no doubt about that.”

Just one day after their big win, the team was already back at work, preparing for their next challenge. They will compete together at the Duberstein Competition beginning on February 27.

“I don’t know what to expect going into the national competition but I’ll say I’m confident in both of their abilities and I think that we’re all very receptive of criticism from one another and nobody’s looking to be patted on the back. There’s not a lot of ego going on,” said Pattan. “We just want to do well and represent the school well, and we’re looking forward to it.”




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