Last month, the William & Mary Moot Court Team hosted the 47th Annual William B. Spong, Jr. Invitational Tournament. Like any other Moot Court competition, the Spong Tournament is modeled in appellate advocacy, where judges and competitors participate in oral arguments after submitting written briefs prior to the tournament.
“The event invites bright and talented law students from across the country to argue in front of esteemed judges and practitioners,” said Greg Dahl ’18, Spong Tournament Associate Justice for Logistics. “The end results of that intellectual exchange are always something special.”
Although the Spong Tournament is one of the oldest and most prestigious Moot Court competitions in the country, this year’s tournament enjoyed an unprecedented level of success. In light of this year’s achievements, Trevor Ward ’18, Chief Justice of the William & Mary Moot Court Team, said that “while there are many reasons to be proud of this team, the Spong Tournament is far and away our most impressive accomplishment.”
It’s no coincidence that the Spong Tournament stands as a shining example of excellence at William & Mary Law School. Since May 2017, a small committee of Moot Court members contributed to the careful planning, preparation and execution of the many details associated with the tournament.
“Although it has been hard work since last May, it was amazing to see the number of people who were willing to come together and serve William & Mary Law School and the Moot Court Team as judges,” said Afton Paris ’19, Associate Justice for Judges.
Paris made a tremendous impact on the tournament by more than tripling the number of attending judges, including some of the most respected judges and practitioners along the eastern seaboard.
In addition, the Tournament experienced a 15 percent increase in teams due to efforts from the Associate Justice for Teams, Matthew Harrell ’19. Teams came from as far as California to compete due in large part to Harrell’s ability to address questions and concerns from teams, making every competitor feel valued.
“The quality of the oral arguments was high, and our judges expressed their admiration for the work the competitors had put into the tournament,” Harrell said. “I have received feedback from many teams who have said that this is among the best tournaments they have ever attended.”
Other preparations included Dahl securing an extensive list of reservations ranging from hotels to catering, and Assistant Tournament Director Liesel Zimmerman ’18 developing several unique finishes, including hand-crafted centerpieces and custom gift bags. The new wing of the Law School also played a strong role.
“It meant a lot to know that our Awards Banquet was the first of its kind held in the new Hixon Center,” Zimmerman said. “We were proud to showcase the beautiful new facility and it created a wonderful atmosphere for the conclusion of the Spong Tournament.”
Professor Jennifer Franklin, faculty advisor and coach of the William & Mary Moot Court Team, expressed that because of these efforts, “each person was a VIP, whether they were a competitor, a coach, a judge, an alumnus, or a volunteer.”
According to Kevin Connell ’18, this year’s Spong Tournament Director, this general notion of making everyone feel valued paved the road to success.
“The key to differentiating the Spong Tournament from others is being attentive to the needs of every single person associated with the tournament,” Connell said. “It was our primary focus to provide every attendee personalized and quality service.”
This vision was realized in large part due to the efforts of the Moot Court Team’s volunteers. In the words of Dahl, “every member of William and Mary’s Moot Court team contributed a considerable amount of time and effort to the tournament, and their efforts were evident in the final product.”
The William & Mary Moot Court competition also honored President Taylor Reveley with the Spong Tournament Award. Although the accolade is usually reserved for a distinguished judge, Reveley was honored for his 20 years of dedicated service to William & Mary Law School and the College of William & Mary.
Additionally, Dean Davison M. Douglas was also recognized for his 28 years of unparalleled service to William & Mary Law School.
“The Spong Tournament would not have been possible without the countless administration, faculty, staff, or student volunteers who promoted the tournament,” Connell said. “Ultimately, the inclusive atmosphere that made much of the Spong Tournament possible starts with the leadership at William & Mary, so we were honored to pay tribute to their remarkable contribution to our community.”
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.