Dr. Julie Keil is speaking by phone from "the wilds" of Mississippi, as she says, and the phone cuts out every once in a while.
Keil, along with six students from Saginaw Valley State University, are at a retreat in the southern state, practicing for this year’s American Moot Court Association national tournament. Their location keeps the team sequestered from distractions.
Three teams from the school's moot court program are competing in this year's national tournament, which is scheduled for Jan. 17 and 18 at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, La.
No matter what happens at the tournament, Saginaw Valley State University’s moot court program is impressive no matter. The school is ranked 17th out of more than 400 schools across the United States and Canada. One might be extra impressed, however, when you consider that this small midwestern school ranks among some of the biggest names in the country, such as Rutgers and Yale.
The school has made the national tournament 10 years in a row, the only school in Michigan to do so.
Keil, assistant professor of political science and Moot Court Team adviser at SVSU, chalks that success up to the students themselves.
"We have some really great students. They spend 10 times of their attention on this class than others. And SVSU is extremely supportive, paying for expenses," says Keil. "Moot court is a pathway to getting into a good law school."
Moot court challenges teams of two with arguing constitutional law cases in front of a mock courtroom. SVSU has three teams competing in this year’s national tournament.
Among the six SVSU students competing is Lindsey Mead, who is from Saginaw. This will be her third appearance in the national tournament, becoming the first SVSU student to reach that achievement.
"This is a great program for students. It’s a good chance to get admitted into really good law schools, to give students a leg up. It levels the playing field for students from smaller regional schools," Keil says.
"These are all local kids from local high schools, competing at a national level."
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