First-year student Alissa Netto presents her opening argument at the 2020 Advocacy Idol competition.

Annual competition helps students develop advocacy skills

First-year student Alissa Netto won the University of Tennessee College of Law’s First-Year Advocacy Competition Monday to become the Advocacy Idol for 2020.

The event featured 24 competitors, mentored by second- and third-year advocacy students, who had 15 minutes to learn the details of their case and prepare an opening statement to present to a panel of Tennessee judges.

Netto argued on behalf of the defendant who was accused by police of running down and killing a home intruder. She and the other competitors were evaluated by Tennessee Circuit Court Judges Beth Boniface, Greg McMillan, and Deborah Stevens; Criminal Court Judges Lisa Rice and Stacy Street; Municipal Court Judge John Rosson; General Sessions Judge Robert Headrick; Third Judicial District Chancellor Douglas Jenkins; and U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Cynthia Wyrick.

While Netto won the competition, Chad Taylor and Douglas Campbell were named first- and second-runners up. The six finalists also included Livia Campos, Emma Knapp and Will Salisbury. 

The annual event offered to first-year law students is coordinated by the College of Law’s Moot Court executive board including Sean Bright, Erika Ivey, Liz Peterson, Sean Roberts, Elana Samuels and Ginny Whitener. In all, more than 50 students participated in the First-Year Advocacy Competition.

Since its inception 13 years ago, the competition is supported by College of Law alumnus Michael Galligan (’71).

Moot Court Board faculty advisor Penny White said the competition ultimately helps students gain confidence through an introduction to advocacy that enables them to partner with colleagues and receive feedback from judges.  

“For some students, having an opportunity to begin to master these skills restores their commitment to becoming a lawyer and reminds them that being a lawyer involves a variety of skills,” White said. “If they haven’t fared as well as they hoped in some of those skills, perhaps they will gain confidence by excelling in others.”

“With each opportunity to practice lawyering skills, we improve and position ourselves to better represent our clients,” she said.