MSU Law Moot Court Competition team advances to final round in Orlando


(L-R) Judge Adam Tanenbaum, Judge Joseph Lewis, Professor Jennifer Copland, Jake Putala, Shawn Brew, and Judge L. Clayton Roberts

Photo courtesy of MSU Law 

By Prof. Jennifer Copland

Starting the competition season off strong, MSU College of Law third-year students, Jake Putala and Shawn Brew, were national finalists at the E. Earle Zehmer National Moot Court Competition in Orlando, Florida, in August. 

The competition involved two issues arising under Florida Workers’ Compensation Law (WCI). A total of 26 teams from 10 states competed at the Zehmer competition, which takes place each year as part of the Workers’ Compensation Institute’s annual conference.

“These students worked diligently all summer to perfect their arguments,” said Professor and Competitions Program Director Jennifer Copland, who coached the team in Orlando. “Despite having full-time associate jobs, taking summer classes, and planning weddings, they still found time to meet and practice, and they were constantly looking for ways to improve their arguments. They are a dream team from a coaching perspective.”

The MSU Law team was undefeated in two preliminary rounds and a “sweet 16” octafinal round, which took place on Zoom on July 28. WCI then covered travel expenses for the top eight teams to compete in elimination rounds in Orlando on August 19-21. 

The team prevailed over Florida State University College of Law in the quarterfinals and Baylor University School of Law in the semifinals. The final round was judged by 3 appellate judges –Florida First District Court of Appeal Judges Joseph Lewis, L. Clayton Roberts, and Adam Tanenbaum.

In a split decision, MSU Law placed second behind St. Mary’s School of Law, located in San Antonio, Texas. This was MSU’s first appearance in the final round at the Zehmer competition.

“It was an honor to represent MSU Law in the finals, especially against 25 other teams,” said Mr. Putala. “It was an unfamiliar issue as we had to study Florida law and the entire body of Florida Workers’ Compensation Law over the summer.”

The dedication of the students, and the training offered by the Law College, paved the students’ way to the finals. “But this is not Jake and Shawn’s first final round,” said Professor Copland. 

“As a team, they won our fall class completion last year and as of now they have won 11 out of 12 competition rounds together.” Professor Copland applauded the strength of the program, noting that “everyone puts in a lot of hard work, and we’re often ranked among the top sixteen programs in the country.  This ranking doesn’t happen without the training and dedication of those on the Board of Advocates.”

Professor Copland’s dedication to the training of her team does not go unnoticed. Mr. Putala emphasized how much time she and other coaches put in for them and how it is appreciated by the students. 

“Professor Copland and our other coaches in the program are so dedicated,” he said.

 “They are dedicated to the program and to making us better advocates. That’s a benefit to joining the Board of Advocates. When you’re on a competition team, you have a coach that will work with you one-on-one to make you a better law student and eventually a better lawyer.”

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