When Justin Hoover addresses the room during a National Trial Team demonstration, he embodies the classic southern lawyer. Channeling the authority and charm of Atticus Finch, the archetypal counselor from "To Kill A Mockingbird," he captures the attention of his audience.
Hoover, a third-year student at William & Mary Law School, is the most recent recipient of the Powell Scholarship, which is awarded each year for outstanding trial advocacy. The sons of Bolling R. Powell, Jr., a Law School faculty member from 1970 to 1980, established the scholarship fund in their father's memory.
Hoover is originally from southwest Virginia and attended Emory & Henry College for his undergraduate education.
He said he had no experience in debate, theater or mock trial before becoming a member of the National Trial Team -- he just tried out.
"I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor and I wanted to be litigating as much as possible, so I figured what better opportunity than the Trial Team," he said. "The team has satisfied all of my expectations and then some."
Hoover will join the State Attorney's Office in West Palm Beach, Fla., as a prosecutor following his graduation in May.
Adjunct Professor of Law Jeffrey A. Breit, the Trial Team's coach, commented on Hoover as a student and as a team member.
"He is one of those lawyers who sneaks up on you," Breit said. "His 'aw shucks' country-boy demeanor and his southern drawl disarm you. By the time you know you have a land shark in your courtroom, it's too late. He is smart, polite and a quick study. I think he has unlimited potential and it's been a pleasure to be his teacher."
Hoover credits his success in trial advocacy to his fellow team members and Coach Breit. He expressed his gratitude for the Powell Scholarship.
"I do not feel deserving of this award, but I am completely grateful and incredibly humbled," he said. "Our team is absolutely overflowing with ability and enthusiasm."
Hoover said that students interested in trial advocacy should take every opportunity to be in front of people. It can be intimidating at first, he added, but that fear diminishes with practice.
"I think that's when you become dangerous in the courtroom," he said.
The National Trial Team has become a powerhouse in recent years. Since fall 2009, the team has placed first in the Gourley Trial Competition, the Phi Alpha Delta National Tournament, the GMU Costello Criminal Advocacy Tournament, and the Stetson Law School Pretrial Competition. The team also won the 2010 National Trial Competition Regional Finals. Hoover credited the Law School's dominance to Breit's commitment to the team, as well as team members' willingness to help each other improve.
"We are a close bunch, and together we have helped each other grow and achieve," he said. "I doubt very seriously that any of us expected to improve and succeed the way we have, and Trial Team helped give us the confidence and ability to do so."