The ABA has posted complete results of the National Appellate Advocacy Competition, so now you may finally quench your thirst for knowledge as to who was the seventh-best advocate at the St. Louis regional (if you must know, it was Clayton Rushing Tartt of Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law, who happened to knock my team out in the national quarterfinals).
The national results made a bit more sense this year than last, although it's worth noting that the National Best Advocate (Bridget Burke of South Texas College of Law, who won with an astounding 97 speaker average) didn't even place in the top 10 of advocates at her Washington, D.C. regional. Otherwise, however, the second-through-fifth-place National Best Advocates all won speaker awards at their respective regionals. And my team's National Best Brief had placed third in its region, while the top two briefs in that region didn't make the trip to Chicago.
As I expected, the competition was incredibly well run, both regionally (we were in Miami) and nationally. The new rule change -- which provides that elimination rounds are decided by the team that wins a majority of ballots (as opposed to which team scored more points) -- actually cost my team: In the quarterfinal round against Faulkner, we won by a total of two points but lost the ballot count 2-1. I supported and still do support the new rule, but it makes losing a bit harder to swallow...
And the level of competition, I must say, was higher than I've ever seen it. Having two teams there, I was able to see parts of four preliminary rounds and two break rounds. I can truthfully say that every team we faced had the ability to win it all, and the margins of victory/defeat were razor thin. Which is how it should be, of course. But it reaffirms my belief -- particularly after taking a team to the Gibbons competition the week before and seeing eventual champion Albany argue -- that schools send their very best teams to the NAAC and National Moot Court Competition, and winning either of those two tournaments is far more difficult than winning one of the 60-or-so other competitions that take place over the course of the year.
One last thing: If you have any suggestions as to rule changes for the NAAC, this would be a good place to discuss them (some of the NAAC subcommittee members told me they're readers).
Here's one to get the ball rolling: Instead of holding a coin flip to decide which team chooses its side in the break rounds, why not simply allow the higher-seeded team to select its side? Because here's the problem: Given the elimination of the brief score from the break rounds, having a higher seed at NAAC carries no real advantage. My team was the #1 seed coming out of the preliminary rounds, but that was only so because our brief score was monstrous. We lost to #9 Faulkner -- an awesome team orally -- in the quarters. Eventual champion South Texas was the #15 seed. Last year, the final round match up was #5 Harvard Law School against #7 University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. The purpose of seeding is (or at least should be) to protect the higher-ranked teams. As it's currently set up, the higher seeds have zero advantage, and there's no incentive to capture a top seed -- it means absolutely nothing.
Incidentally, my proposal would not have made a difference for my team at NAAC -- we actually won both our coin flips and chose the side we wanted. But it just strikes me as odd that the only real advantage for the higher seed is the ability to "call" the coin flip, which, of course, isn't an advantage at all, given that a coin flip is a 50/50 proposition. The "caller" is in no better a position than the non-caller.
The "higher seed chooses" is the rule we use at the Texas state moot court competition. I've always thought it worked well -- it means teams aren't just competing for one of the four elimination round slots, but are also competing for seeding. Because if you're #1, you know you don't have to switch sides at a moment's notice for the next round.
Anyone agree or disagree? Comment below...