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Campus News

Albany Students Argue the Case

by Greta Petry

Two UAlbany undergraduates, Jessica Landin and Lauren Mendolera, captured “Best New Team” honors in the national tournament of the American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMCA) competition January 30-31 in Arlington, Texas.

“Jess and Lauren turned in outstanding performances, made a slew of new friends during the competition, and learned much from their experience. I would not suggest getting into an argument with either one of them,” said their faculty mentor, James Acker.

Landin and Mendolera were one of 60 teams from around the country which participated in three rounds of oral arguments on the first day of the tournament. Sixteen teams advanced to single-elimination rounds on the second day. While Landin and Mendolera did not advance, their performance earned them a special trophy for being the “Best New Team” in the competition.

The two were part of a group of five volunteers from Acker’s class, Introduction to Law and Criminal Justice (CRJ 202), who represented UAlbany at the Eastern Regionals of the ACMCA Undergraduate Moot Court Tournament November 21-22 at Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, Mass. In the November competition, the group of five was split into two teams, with Landin and Mendolera on one, and Amanda Conover and Winston Brownlow on the other. Emily Spinner served as alternate.

In the fall competition, after the first three oral arguments, the team of Landin and Mendolera qualified for the round of 16. “Competing against seasoned teams from other universities, many of whom had been enrolled in semester-length courses devoted to preparing for the ACMCA tournament, the Landin-Mendolera team pulled upset after upset, advancing to the round of eight, then the final four, and ultimately qualifying for the final round of the competition,” Acker said. In that tournament, Landin and Mendolera finished as runners-up.

Acker said the performance of Landin and Mendolera “was all the more remarkable because Jess is a sophomore and Lauren is a first-year student.”

Landin, a Westchester, N.Y., native and psychology major whose long-term goal is to work for the FBI, said competing “was truly one of the best experiences of my life.” Mendolera, a freshman from Elma, N.Y. (30 miles from the Canadian border), plans to major in English and volunteered because she wanted to improve her public speaking skills. “I eventually want to be a lawyer and practice business law. Or perhaps eventually run for a judgeship,” she said.

Acker said all five of the UAlbany students “invested countless hours outside of class to prepare for the [November] tournament, including several brainstorming sessions on their own.”

Conover, a junior from Altamont, N.Y., said Acker’s course was her first experience learning about law “outside of John Grisham, ‘Law and Order,’ and ‘JAG.’ ”

The skills she learned in moot court can also be applied to job interviews. “Answering interview questions requires the same amount of confidence and poise. If I end up pursuing the career path of a lawyer, I’ll obviously use these skills in court, but even if I end up going into teaching [she has considered teaching at the university level], this experience taught me a lot about public speaking,” she said.

Acker noted, “I could not be prouder of all the students who participated in the competition.”

UAlbany’s participation in the fall tournament was supported by a grant from the UAlbany Innovations in Teaching Awards, which are administered through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).
Mendolera said, “These are life skills, especially for anyone looking to enter law school. They involve public speaking, thorough analysis, and just generally being able to think on your feet. These will all carry over into life.”