Attorney is passionate about the national mock trial tournament

Photo by Cynthia Price

By Cynthia Price
Legal News

James Liggins’s involvement in mock trial began during his years in high school and made a big difference in his life, instilling in him the desire to go into the law.

So as an adult he has done all he can to support the mock trial program in the state, serving first as an attorney coach and then on the board of the Michigan Center for Civic Education, which manages the mock trial process.

Liggins, now an attorney with Warner Norcross + Judd, was eventually asked to coordinate and run the four regional competitions and one state competition that result in the team Michigan sends to national mock trial.
It has long been his dream to bring the national mock trial competition to Michigan.

“Team Michigan has won the nationals once and placed second in the nationals five or six times, but we’ve never hosted a national high school mock trial tournament here,” he explains.

That is about to change. Thanks to the efforts of Liggins and many others – including the State Bar of Michigan – the national mock trial tournament will be held in Michigan in 2021.

 “I?feel so privileged now that this is coming to fruition,” Liggins says.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun, but it’s also a whole lot of work to bring together the right people, the right law firms, the right judges, the right corporate organizations and the philanthropic community.

“It isn’t just for the sake of having the tournament here, it’s also to grow the capacity of the Michigan Center for Civic Education to get their programs out to improve the civil discourse and to give more Michigan kids a chance to participate in mock trial and have the opportunity I had.

“Part of mock trial is that you need a champion at the school, and the goal with the national tournament here would be to raise up more champions. What better way to increase our participation than to have a national profile like this?”

A steering committee has been formed and fund-raising has begun, resulting in some early success.

Participating in mock trial as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, Liggins was an American Mock Trial Association Regional Winner as well as a student senator.

At Michigan State University College of Law he was broadly involved with a number of organizations, including the Wolverine Student Bar Association and moot court.

After graduation, he worked briefly at a labor and employment law firm in Indiana, but then he and his wife Jyllian wanted to move closer to home.

In Jackson, Liggins joined the general counsel office of Consumers Energy, focusing on litigation, though he handled other matters as well.

A commercial litigator with an emphasis on contract disputes, construction and real estate, Liggins gained experience on the municipal side during his involvement, at Miller Canfield, in the city of Benton Harbor when it was under emergency management.

And he still maintains a small criminal defense practice. “I have a unique perspective, because I’ve done the private practice, done in-house and done the governmental side.” Liggins says.

“As an intern, I even helped the state treasurer write some administrative rules. Once you pass the bar, you have a lot of freedom and flexibility.”

Named a Michigan Super Lawyer Rising Star in 2013, Liggins has been honored with appointments to a variety of statewide positions, including the State Bar of Michigan Judicial Qualifications Committee and a special committee to review the civil discovery Michigan Court Rules.


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