BY SARAH MCGONIGLE
Justin wears many hats on the Honorable Stanley Mosk Memorial Team. He is the team captain and founding member of the original team of four. He dubs himself the team’s Poet Laureate for his love of brief writing and attention to turns of phrase, but it is also clear that Dillon provides the team with ample desire to win. Though he won’t be seen at the podium itself, he is a motive force behind the team’s determination and success.
Danielle was an original member of the Honorable Stanley Mosk Memorial Team chosen, understandably enough, because team organizers thought she was “smart.” The team’s opinion today? She’s wicked smart — Geyser says her role is “To learn stuff. And by ‘stuff’ I mean any area of substantive law whether she has or hasn’t had a class in it. Think: total field occupation.”
Ben seems to be the team’s Rock — that is, the “Rock” of the biblical, steady-as-she-goes kind rather than WWF kind. The team says their winning semi-final oralist “sets the deadlines.” And since Hatch patiently keeps his team focused and responsive at their RECORD interview, it is not hard to imagine his steadying hand at work in everything the team does. Look for Ben at the podium on Ames night.
If Ben Hatch sets the team’s deadlines, Geyser’s role is to break them, according to the team. Geyser works to the beat of his own drummer; he is a notoriously late worker and addicted to Starbucks, but for all his antics, the team seems incredibly affectionate toward their deadline-breaker. They clearly respect Geyser’s quick mind since they selected him as an oralist for the final round.
The team declares that Ben’s only role is to “drive the van.” But Souede isn’t your typical soccer mom. He is also apparently a “pit bull” during practice for the orals. He says that the sweetest challenge in Ames for him is “trying to think outside yourself, having to take an idea and look at it in three dimensions.”
Kelly says her team role is “riding in the van.” What is this van? Clearly these people have spent too much time together somewhere. Jaske rode in another van recently — her father used one to transport Kelly and several other HLS students along a 200 mile relay course, just as Kelly was in the middle of preparing her team’s Ames brief. Not bad for a day’s work.
Before the final round, the team is headed to Las Vegas, where they will do orals prep by the pool
As this year’s Ames Competition draws near, visions of suit-clad, carefully groomed podium jockeys come readily to mind. And the sense of delicious drama in the air is equally memorable — how often does a rowdy, beer-swigging crowd of hundreds approach silence to catch every word of a fellow classmate? Whether a partisan for one team or simply a disinterested observer, it is impossible to attend the competition and not root for fellow students, hoping … well, hoping that they won’t screw up.
Calm, Cool, Collected
But although the Ames competition comes down to one dramatic evening in November, the members of this year’s Honorable Stanley Mosk Memorial Team have worked well over one year to get to the final round on November 15, and they say that the oral presentation is actually one of the more predictable and manageable elements of the entire competition.
One of the team’s oralists, Ben Hatch, says that preparing the team brief is actually more stressful for him, and that a completed brief and a feeling that it is solid greatly reduces the stress of orals.
“It just gives you so much more confidence when you feel that your brief is complete in its theory — orals is just about filling that out,” Hatch says.
His friend and co-oralist Dan Geyser agrees: “You literally just feel like you’re talking to three people.
“Right when you’re up their you’re just engaged in what you’re doing,” he says, and the rest melts into the scenery.
Though it’s hard to believe it’s that simple, the pair apparently know what they’re talking about: Hatch won Best Oralist and the two brought home the award for Best Team (based largely on the best overall oral presentation) in their semi-final round. Their cohorts behind the podium are the team’s captain, Justin Dillon, and Danielle Rolfes, Ben Souede and Kelly Jaske.
Souede insists that it is incredibly difficult to sit helpless when a difficult question is posed.
“There’s nothing more painful than sitting there when a tough question is asked,” he says.
Jaske chimes in: “You hope they’ll say what you would say.”
Indeed, the whole team works hard to ensure that that is the case. They prepare for the orals thoroughly — so much so, in fact, that in their semi-final round the oralists did not face a single question they had not prepared, Geyser says.
And as for those hard questions that the team would prefer weren’t asked at all? Hatch says the whole team brainstorms to reach the perfect answer. Before the final round, the team is headed en masse to Las Vegas, and according to Dillon they will “do orals prep by the pool.”
Recipe for Success
Vegas trips or not, it is clear that the Honorable Stanley Mosk Memorial Team is serious about Ames.
“We probably spend at least like three to five hours a day any given day working on the competition,” Hatch says.
Geyser adds: “In the last week [before the team brief was due] we probably put in 70 to 100 hours.”
Hatch says he agrees. “Yeah, and that last ‘day’ is more like a 30- to 35-hour day.”
When asked to join the team, Ben Souede was earnestly warned about the hard work. But in addition to emphasizing the long hours, the team also stressed a desire to win.
“I think the words Dillon used were: ‘Understand that we’re in it to win it, so don’t say yes if you don’t agree,'” Souede recalls.
Team members also point to synergy, friendship and understanding as elements of their success. Jaske says that when she and Souede worked together late one night, “We were literally finishing each other’s sentences.”
Dillon agrees that friendship is “definitely” a key to success. He explains: “You have to want to hang out with these people a lot.” That is even more the case because the team members are also all members of the Harvard Law Review.
Does that make things more complicated? Hatch adopts a diplomatic tone: “Having a team where all six members have a significant commitment makes it challenging.” But Souede suggests that it helps that all of the team members understand and share the commitment to the Law Review.
One other factor seems relevant to the team’s success: They all seem to enjoy the game immensely. Asked how much of the competition is pleasure and how much pain, Dillon quickly says that it is 80 percent pleasure and 20 percent pain. And though Geyser quips, “But it’s not a dull pain, it’s a sharp stinging pain,” the team unanimously agrees that the experience is more than worthwhile. Indeed team members had trouble identifying the low point of the experience until Souede decided, “The high point was winning at the semi-final round; the low point was the thirty seconds [of uncertainty] prior to that.”
The team’s next period of painfully dramatic uncertainty? November 15, Ames Courtroom.