NU law school duo wins first at national trial competition

Jillian Sandler

A Northwestern University School of Law duo took first place this month in the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s National Trial Competition.

The Northwestern University Bartlit Center for Trial Strategy team, consisting of second-year law students Clare Diegel and Karim Basaria, took the title from Chicago-Kent College of Law by the slim margin of one vote. Diegel and Basaria garnered votes from 10 of the 19 judges, while Kent received the other nine.

The duo defeated a number of other teams from esteemed law schools throughout the competition, which took place April 6-10 in Houston.

In the three preliminary rounds, they knocked out teams from Yale Law School, St. John’s University School of Law and the University of Texas School of Law, placing them as the number one seed heading into the playoff rounds. Diegel and Basaria went on to defeat Wake Forest University School of Law in the quarterfinals and Salmon P. Chase College of Law in the semifinal round before facing Kent in the finals.

Basaria said the win was important in solidifying NU’s status as a top law school in the area of trial advocacy, the process of doing trial work in the courtroom.

“Everyone at the law school is really excited about this. NU places a lot of emphasis on its trial advocacy program,” Basaria said. “NU is one of the few top tier law schools that consistently ranks very high in trial advocacy. It’s nice that our program trains people well and that we go in prepared.”

Diegel said she is excited that this win adds to NU’s credentials as a law school.

“It’s really cool that now we’re also recognized with (the title of) best trial team in the country. That’s putting us on the map,” she said.

The trial team is led by head coach Richard Levin of the Levin Riback Law Group, with help from Adam Riback and Karen O’Malley, also of Levin Riback Law Group, and Richard Lakin of Iron Financial.

The team serves as an important way for students to gain real life experience in the courtroom, said the team’s academic advisor Steven Lubet. He said though he is excited about the victory, he views the team’s chief purpose as preparing students for careers as litigators.

“(The team is) first and foremost an educational opportunity. It allows students to have the experience of examining witnesses and trying cases in the most realistic situations,” Lubet said. “It’s always nice to win, of course, but we use it primarily as an educational opportunity.”

The team will not compete again until fall, when they will receive a new case. They will then participate in a regional competition in February. If they place first or second in this competition, they will again return to the national competition.

Until then, Diegel is taking a break from trial team to focus on her classes and prepare for a future in law. She said she will work at the U.S. Attorneys’ office this summer. She said she does not think she will work at a law firm.

Basaria, however, will continue to do mock trial work next month, when he competes in the Texas Top Gun tournament at Baylor University.

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