The competition began on Friday, March 22, and went through the weekend as 55 first-year students practiced their legal argument skills. Two students rose through the ranks and advanced to the final round. McNary and runner-up Julianne Severson argued in front of Chief Justice Steven R. Jensen, Justice Mark E. Salter, Woods Fuller attorney James Moore, Dean Neil Fulton, and Associate Dean Shirley Mays.

The Sam Masten Competition is a significant milestone in students' legal careers – as for many, it is their first introduction to courtroom experience. The competition provides law students with the opportunity to gain experience in conducting appellate oral arguments and further develop their advocacy skills outside of the classroom environment.

“This experience was invaluable and is a highlight of my first year of law school,” said McNary. “The competition was equally challenging and terrifying, yet so rewarding. The opportunity to argue in front of so many talented attorneys and judges from across South Dakota and receiving feedback and advice on how to be a stronger advocate, made this a learning experience I will never forget.

“It was fun to compete alongside my classmates, and I was deeply impressed with the level of advocacy put forth from everyone,” she continued. “Law school is designed to challenge us, and at times it can be overwhelming. This experience gave me the confidence to see myself as an attorney for the first time in law school, and it is an experience I will remember forever.”

Sam Masten, namesake of the Moot Court tournament, was an outstanding South Dakota trial lawyer who served the Canton, South Dakota, area. He was a leader of many legal organizations and served as an adjunct professor at the USD Knudson School of Law.

“If I were to judge, thinking about this round against the standard of a professional round in a real appellate setting, this is professional grade advocacy,” Salter commented before the winner was announced.

“It was a privilege to collaborate with Will West and the 2023-2024 Moot Court Board in organizing and hosting the annual Sam Masten Moot Court Competition,” said Taylor Anderson, senior board member of Moot Court Board. “This event consistently stands out as a highlight of the spring semester. It provides participants a platform to demonstrate their knowledge in a practical setting. Additionally, the competition offers an invaluable opportunity for our students to present their advocacy skills to esteemed local judges and attorneys, facilitating meaningful connections within the legal community.

“It was truly rewarding to witness the dedication and talent displayed by all participants, and we look forward to continuing this tradition of excellence in the years to come,” Anderson continued.

The inaugural Spirit of Sam Masten award for excellence in professionalism, dedication, perseverance, candor and ethics was awarded to first-year student Conrad Tanyi.

Woods Fuller sponsored a networking event at Old Lumber Company following the competition.

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