UMKC Introduces Board of Barristers

The Board of Barristers, a new student group at UMKC School of Law that promotes, educates, and encourages UMKC law students in the discipline of trial advocacy, was formed earlier this year. Board of Barristers Chief Justice Sara Hofeditz Christiansen answers a few questions about the organization’s formation, current projects and plans for the future.

What is the Board of Barristers?
The Board of Barristers supports students interested in exploring trial work as an avenue to pursue as a legal career.  The Board of Barristers supports all law students interested in trial skills, not only those participating in trial team and competitions.  All students are invited to join the Board of Barristers and take part in our mini-clinics, which are short educational sessions providing training in trial skills.

When was the Board created?
The establishment of the Board of Barristers has been a year-long project with its coming to fruition early this April. The Board of Barristers would not have been possible if it weren’t for a core of dedicated law students interested in sharing their passions.  This group of students spent hours on this group’s formation without any guarantee that it was going to happen.  Now that it has, that enthusiasm and energy is going to be put to good use at UMKC with The Board of Barristers and will extend into the workforce as we take our passion for trial excellence beyond the classroom.

Why was the Board created?
At many schools, their Board of Barristers is, for students interested in trial advocacy, much like Law Review is for students interested in legal research and writing.  With the addition of Douglas Stripp Dean’s Distinguished Professor and Director of Advocacy S. Rafe Foreman in the fall of 2012, the trial team presence on campus has grown exponentially over the past two years.  UMKC went from sending teams to two mock trial competitions annually to competing in sixteen mock trial competitions nationwide, even in Puerto Rico!  With this growth, The Board of Barristers was necessary to create and maintain a trial advocacy institutional history, involve more students in trial advocacy beyond competing trial team members, recognize student success in the areas of trial advocacy and connect students interested in trial advocacy with the Kansas City professional trial community.

What are some of the projects the Board participates in?
Probably our greatest initiative is the Clinics – training sessions in basic trial skills such as cross examination, impeachment, and closing arguments.  Following each Clinic we will have a Mini-Challenge, an intra-school competition focusing on that one skill.  This will provide a competitive aspect for students not on a competing trial team and will involve professors and area attorneys as judges.  The Board of Barristers will also be in charge of coordinating the annual Last Team Standing: UMKC 1L Mock Trial competition in January and the Show Me Challenge: National Voir Dire Tournament in the spring.   We will also be building a digital library of practice footage and training videos along with competition case problems and trial materials for students to reference and use as an educational resource, as well as providing networking and social events for The Board of Barristers Members and the Kansas City community.

How many members do you have?
We currently have the Executive Board, which is made up of 10 members and 4 chairs.  We also have the 26 trial team members who will compete on behalf of the school in fall 2013, some of whom overlap and serve on the Executive Board.  Beyond that we are brand new so we will be recruiting students – ANY student can be a member of the Board of Barristers.  For  Competing Members, students who have been selected to be on the trial team, there are certain responsibilities and requirements that must be fulfilled.  However, anyone can be a General Member and participate in our events, clinics and competitions.  Also, any General Member can apply to be an Executive Board Member.

What is one thing you want readers to know about the Board?
We are seeking to raise awareness about students interested in Trial Advocacy at UMKC and in the Kansas City community.  In order to do that we are going to be seeking community involvement and we hope that UMKC alumni and area attorneys lend a helping hand – whether it be sponsoring a networking event or as a guest speaker.  We want to make UMKC a known force to be reckoned with in the national competition scene and a dependable, skilled work force upon exiting school.

For more information about The Board of Barristers, please contact Sara Christensen. The Board also publishes a quarterly newsletter, and the first issue can be viewed here.

Pictured on UMKC School of Law Home Page: (front row from left to right) Luke Whitworth, Associate Justice of Promotions; Dominic DeFeo, Social Chair; Adam Krause, Associate Justice of Finance; Robert Kinsman, Barrister’s Banquet Chair; Taylor Sloan, Mini-Challenge Tournament; Chris Accurso, Last Team Standing Competition Chair; Ken Kinney, Associate Justice of Administration; Geoff Hayes, Associate Justice of Promotions; Mitch Biebighauser, Associate Justice of Development; Jacob Lewis, Associate Justice of Archives; (back row) Jessica Wengronowitz, Associate Justice of Records; Bree Berner, Associate Justice of Public Relations; Sara Christensen, Chief Justice; and Kahlie Poindexter, Executive Associate Justice. 

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