The prestigious Gourley Tournament is sponsored by the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County and has been in existence since 1962. The civil case competition takes place in Pittsburgh in mid-February each year and features top competition from law schools throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions. In February 2009, William and Mary dominated the competition and took the first place title. Michelle Jacobs, 3L, Jessica Hass, 2L, and Arpan Sura, 3L rigorously prepared a dynamic personal injury defense taken from a real case. In addition to an amazing team victory, Michelle Jacobs won the First Place Advocate award and Jessica Hass took the Second Place Advocate Award, setting a phenomenal victory for the Law School for this year.
The tournament's realistic courtroom atmosphere engaged the team and tested their oral advocacy skills. "Our judge for the preliminary rounds was a U.S. District Court judge and our judge for the final round was a Third Circuit Judge. It was a great confidence booster to compete in front of such well-respected judges and get feedback from the best of the best," said Jacobs. Jacobs also is on the staff of the William and Mary Law Review. After graduation in May, she will work in the business litigation department at Haynes and Boone in Dallas.
Hass, winner of Best Cross Examination for the Puerto Rico Trial Advocacy Competition, enjoyed the challenge of preparing examinations of actual physicians during the trial. "We had actual physicians for witnesses. That meant Michelle had the chance to practice preparing an expert for direct and I had a chance to cross examine a physician. We also weren't given any case law or authorities. I just had a huge packet of medical records and depositions and had to do all of the legal research myself." This coming summer, Hass will be working for Blankingship & Keith in Fairfax, Virginia.
Sura, Lead Articles Editor of the William and Mary Law Review, played witness for the team and believed that Gourley was, "the most realistic competition I've ever attended." In addition to the use of real presiding judges and actual medical records, Sura noted all the rounds were also before a jury of their peers. All objections are made in sidebar. Other tournaments lack juries and all objections are heard within the earshot of the court." After graduation, Sura will join the Washington, D.C., office of Arnold and Porter.