Cooley team finishes first in region in client counseling competition

Cooley Law School's ABA Client Counseling Team took top honors at the Region 6 competition Feb. 16 and advances to the finals in March.

Students Gadiel Espinoza and Abbey Rihtarshick entered the final round in third place. With a practical legal education firmly in place, and a sharp attention to detail, however, they bested both Creighton University School of Law and the Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University.

The case included a cleverly underplayed element that could parallel real dilemmas in legal practice - and possibly made the difference in the team’s victory..

Professor and Associate Dean Christine Church, the team's coach, said that the client mentioned at the beginning of this initial client interview that she'd been given three referrals for a lawyer and they were the first lawyers on her list. In the post-consultation conference as part of the competition, Espinoza said to Rihtarshick, “Abbey, Abbey, Abbey -- I don't know about this one. She's obviously lawyer shopping and looking for a lot of free advice. As far as follow up, we're not doing another thing on this case until she returns the retainer agreement.”

Church was thrilled with the team's perceptiveness. “Nobody else caught that...,” she said. “They were also the only team that suggested using mediation as a problem-solving method to obtain the results that were important to the client.”

A second Cooley team of Clayton Jipping and Vincent Anyaso advanced to the semi-final round, but in the power seeding process had to compete against the other Cooley team; only one team could advance.

Church said the level of competition at the Region 6 tournament was the best she'd ever seen. Some of the opponents have won their regional competitions in the past. Espinoza and Rihtarshick are both students at the Lansing campus. They were also coached by Cooley Professor Pat Mock, and assisted by Associate Dean Nelson Miller with the topic for the year, employment law.

The victory marks the fourth win in five years for Cooley at Region 6. Espinoza and Rihtarshick will go on to compete at Baylor University.