The Chicago-Kent College of Law trial advocacy team of Timothy Cho ’20, Saman Haque ’20, Lilly Mashayek ’20, and Jane Morrison ’19 finished as national quarterfinalists and won the best technology award at the 2019 Capitol City Challenge at American University in Washington, D.C. At this year's competition, held March 21 to 24, students argued a criminal case involving two counts of sexual assault and one count of indecent exposure.
In the preliminary rounds, Chicago-Kent defeated teams from the University of South Dakota School of Law, Golden Gate University School of Law, and Howard University School of Law. The team finished as quarterfinalists after falling in a hard-fought battle against a team from Hofstra University's Maurice A. Deane School of Law in the semifinal round.
The Capitol City Challenge is designed to provide participating law students with a twenty-first century courtroom experience. Teams were challenged to use the latest in trial presentation technology to more effectively argue their cases. Chicago-Kent's team was able to rise to this challenge thanks in part to the skills taught in the law school's Litigation Technology course.
“I think it made us more confident going up knowing that our tech was good,” says Haque, adding that coach Guy Guenther ’18 “taught us a lot of the stuff that we didn’t know.”
Guenther, who earned a Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction Award for the highest grade in his Litigation Technology course in spring 2017, worked with the students as they developed the presentation for their arguments using Power Point and Trial Director software.
"For the technology, we primarily used the skills developed in Litigation Technology, especially during the slides with jury instructions," explains Guenther, who works as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. "Each of these slides began with showing all the jury instruction as a whole and then calling out and blowing up the elements or important parts and blurring the rest of the instructions still in the background."
In Litigation Technology—co-taught by Nicholas Caputo '01, founding partner of Caputo & Popovic PC, and Michael Ko '08, founder of Groundwork Trial Consulting—students learn how to integrate technology into their trial presentations, applying principles of persuasion to create more compelling courtroom visuals.
“I think that [learning courtroom technology] is a really great advantage for us because we’re going into our careers with this big wealth of knowledge,” says Mashayek.
The 2019 Capitol City Challenge team was also coached by Kristen Farr Capizzi '18, who works in the tax practice of Big Four accounting firm Ernst & Young, and John Montelongo '91, an experienced litigator and principal of John M. Montelongo Attorney at Law PC.
"I just want to shout out the coaches," says Cho. "We were definitely all nervous. For most of us, this was our actual first trial competition, and we didn't really know what to expect. But they got us in here [to practice] every day, and they worked for free and they stayed with us until we got it down."
Morrison notes that the support the team members received from each other helped make them more effective competitors. “It was truly a team victory, and I feel like we were very blessed to have this team,” she said.
Cho earned a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is president of Chicago-Kent's Blockchain, ICOs, and Cryptocurrency organization. Haque graduated cum laude from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.A. in applied psychology and is active with Chicago-Kent's Muslim Law Student Association and Society of Women in Law. Mashayek earned a B.A. in communications and French at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a vice president of the Kent Justice Foundation and the Chicago-Kent chapter of the American Constitution Society. Morrison, who graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and international studies, is a student fellow of Chicago-Kent's Institute for Science, Law and Technology and volunteers with the Self-Help Web Center at the Daley Center.
Chicago-Kent's trial advocacy teams have won numerous individual student honors and regional and national competitions. In the most recent U.S. News & World Reportgraduate school rankings, Chicago-Kent's Trial Advocacy Program is ranked fifth in the country.