To help FIU Law students prepare for their future legal careers, the law school provides opportunities for them to compete in mock trial, appellate advocacy and trial advocacy competitions. The competitions simulate real-life situations and test students’ writing abilities and oral presentation skills.
Although a young school, FIU Law has historically performed well at local, national and international competitions.
During the National Black Law Student Association’s 2014 Nelson Mandela International Negotiations Competition which was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin March 12-16, 2014, FIU Law’s team brought home three of the six awards.
Second-year law student Scheril Murray Powell, who holds first-place titles in FIU Law Board of Advocates Intramural Negotiation Competition and ABA Regional Negotiations Competition, competing in and winning Overall Best Negotiation in the Mandela Competition was not only challenging, but inspirational.
“This competition was different for me because it is named after a man I have admired all of my life – the great man of compromise the late Nelson Mandela, which gave me a sentimental reason to want to do well. Not so long ago black students were denied admission to non-historically black law schools and when integration started taking place, the Black Law Student Associations fought for equality and today includes students from all races, cultures, and ethnicities in alignment with the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King,” she shared.
Powell’s partner, Jihane Elizee, a second-year evening law student competing for the first time, took home the Round One Best Negotiator trophy and shared the First Runner-Up Team trophy with Powell. Elizee was “grateful to have experienced success my first time up,” and appreciates that FIU Law is providing her with a solid foundation to succeed in the legal profession.
“FIU Law has given me the tools to excel in law school, and invites healthy competition. The faculty offers a wealth of vast experiences, along with the disciplined and ambitious diverse student body, I am provided the ideal platform to demonstrate and embody the level of professionalism and preparation essential to excel in prestigious competitions, such as the Nelson Mandela Negotiations competitions, law school, and beyond.”
Professor David Walter, who also serves as Co-Director of Legal Skills and Values, feels these competitions give students “a chance to focus, intensively, on a single problem or set of problems and then develop strategies and tactics to deal with the multiple issues presented by the problem. The students hone their analytical and negotiation skills or argument or trial skills which will be very useful to the students, on a day-to-day basis, once they become practicing attorneys.”
For three grueling days, Powell and Elizee negotiated four distinct and complex, international law fact patterns and role-played characters like the U.S. Secretary of State and the South Korea Minister of Foreign Affairs. The team had to adapt themselves to the confidential facts which are only shared hours before the start time of the competition and to be able to think fast on their feet.
Unlike Powell’s previous competitions, the Mandela Negotiation Competition offered a strong international component, “it was fun to step into the shoes of international decision makers. We had the opportunity to negotiate the construction of a hydropower plant in Venezuela, the halting of nuclear testing in North Korea, and the elimination of trafficking of Ethiopian nationals in the Middle East all in one competition,” she explained.
It was the “synergy and communication” between Powell and Elizee that the judges took notice of – an important component in the overall scoring process. Their teamwork paid off in their individual and team victories.
PHOTO: From left to right: Scherill Murray Powell and Jihane Elizee.