Last semester, the USD Trial Advocacy team traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the Puerto Rico Trial Advocacy Competition (PRTAC) hosted by the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico School of Law. At the competition, the team competed against Ohio Northern University, Harvard and a team from South Carolina.

While USD’s Trial Advocacy team did not progress to the final competition round, the team outscored Harvard – one of the top five law schools in the country – and two students were recognized for receiving a perfect score in a given skill. Andy Keyes, a third-year law student, was recognized for his skill in direct examination, and Berthal Green, a second-year student at his first trial team competition, was awarded a perfect score for his cross-examination.

“This is a huge deal because the judges at PRTAC are specifically instructed not to give a perfect score unless they see advocacy akin to the greats like Clarence Darrow or Gerry Spence,” said Laura Rose, J.D., associate professor of law and the Heidepriem Trial Advocacy Fellow. “USD students in previous years have also been noted for perfect scores, including Caleb Weeldreyer in the spring of 2021 and Braedon Houdek in the spring of 2022.”

"Sometimes I forget how special South Dakota and the Knudson School of Law are until I go somewhere else,” said Keyes. “After seeing how other – ostensibly more prestigious – programs and their representatives perform, I’m proud of the South Dakotan values I’ve learned here, specifically professionalism and collegiality.”

The Trial Advocacy team's trip to Puerto Rico was sponsored by Meierhenry Sargent LLP, a law firm out of Sioux Falls. Erin Willadsen ’19, J.D., an attorney at Meierhenry Sargent LLP and Knudson School of Law alumna, joined the team in Puerto Rico as a coach.

“Erin’s expertise kept us centered and focused through a stressful competition,” said Keyes. “We can’t thank her enough for her patience and wisdom as she guided us through the competition and the streets of San Juan.”

Over the next three months, USD’s Trial Advocacy team will send 20 students, coached by South Dakota attorneys and alumni of the law school, to compete at four different competitions across the country.

From Feb. 14-19, the trial team will compete at the Texas Young Lawyer Association’s National Trial Competition Region 12 competition.

From Feb. 29-March 4, the team will compete at the University of South Carolina’s Trials and Tribulations Competition.

From March 7-11, the team will send students to the Queens District Attorney Competition in New York. This competition only permits second-year students to compete.

From March 21-25, students from the Trial Advocacy team will compete in Sacramento, California, at the National Ethics Competition.

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