Students Excel in Moot Court Nationals

May 6, 2011—The GW Law community celebrates the accomplishments of 3L Alexander Varond and 2L Thomas Yeh, who were finalists and finished second overall to Harvard in the 2011 Giles Sutherland Rich Intellectual Property Moot Court National Championship in Washington, DC. The nationals were held at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on April 15. The team advanced to the last stage of the competition through victories in several rounds of competition, including the finals of the 2011 Giles Sutherland Rich Intellectual Property Moot Court Western Regional in Silicon Valley, CA.

Intellectual Property Advisory Board Associate Dean for Intellectual Property Studies John M. Whealan coached the team throughout the process, which began with an on-campus competition using the same problem as the one argued in the finals.

“What Alex and Thomas did was amazing. They argued the same IP case 13 times in three different competitions before about 39 judges, at least five of whom were sitting jurists on federal courts of appeals,” said David Johnson, assistant dean for public interest and public service law and director of advocacy programs. “In each of the competitions, they made it to the finals, which is unheard of. More importantly, they got better throughout. Their advocacy became more refined and their arguments more concise. These are two of the best that GW Law has to offer.”

The team said they relied on not only one another during the months of preparation and competition to succeed, but the larger GW Law community as well. This support was especially appreciated because of the high-profile judges the team appeared before throughout the process.

“Arguing before three Federal Circuit judges was definitely not something I thought I’d have the opportunity to do while in law school,” Yeh said.

What made the high-stakes pressure more bearable, he continued, was the support of his classmates, instructors, and the Moot Court Board. “I especially want to express my gratitude to all the past Giles Rich winners, friends, and alumni who mooted with us, and to Dean Johnson, who made everything happen,” Yeh said. “I also appreciated the coaching from Dean Whealan, and we definitely would not have gotten as far as we did without all his help.”

Yeh said the support of his girlfriend, Mary, who traveled from Boston to Washington, DC, and to California for different stages of the competition, also brought the team luck.

The team also was supported by a generous gift from the Rothwell Family Foundation, which sponsored the annual GW Giles Sutherland Rich Memorial Moot Court Competition in the name of Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, P.C. The firm was co-founded by G. Franklin Rothwell, J.D. ’56, who serves as chairman and member of the firm and also has long been a friend and supporter of GW Law.

Varond said the experience is one he will take with him long after his time in law school.

“I was impressed by the diversity of judging and helpful advice we picked up along the way. These experiences helped me develop tremendously as an advocate and gave me a much more nuanced understanding of how law works—from briefs, to oral arguments, to decision,” Varond said. “The Giles Rich Moot Court experience has given me a new sense of confidence as I prepare to begin my legal career.”

Next year, Varond will be working with Hyman, Phelps & McNamara’s food and drug law group. Yeh will serve as a summer associate at Latham and Watkins.

“This was a perfect example of how GW IP students can learn outside, as well as inside, the classroom. Alex and Thomas had the initiative, the drive, and put in the countless extra hours to achieve this memorable accomplishment,” Associate Dean Whealan said. “It is not every day two current GW IP law students argue before three Federal Circuit judges at the Federal Circuit. They deserve all the credit, and it was fun to be along for the ride.”

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