Supplemental jurisdiction, 12-hour days and … fun?

BY SARAH MCGONIGLE

Everyone around HLS knows what the Ames Competition is. It takes little more than a casual glance at the Law School’s catalog to figure out what this venerable moot court competition, which turns 90 this year, is all about (it’s on page 85).

But the teams remain a relative curiosity. Who are these people who spend nights and weekends in the pursuit of the Boykin C. Wright Memorial prize money? (Winners get $650, losers get $550 each.) Why do they do it? (Turns out, it’s not for the money!) Would they do it again? (They say absolutely.)

But when you meet the members of this year’s Honorable John Minor Wisdom Memorial Team, it actually turns out not to be too easy to distinguish them from typical HLS students. Okay, so the team members put in hundreds of hours briefing esoteric areas of the law. Maybe supplemental jurisdiction as applied to class actions doesn’t get everyone around HLS ready to rumble. But all in all, the team seems, well, surprisingly normal.

The team is captained by Robert (Bobby) Klinck, who is an oralist in the finals round (Bobby won best oralist in his semi-final round). Neil Cave is the team’s second oralist. The group is rounded out by Bethany Rubin, Jason Blackstone, Laura Rinzel Braden and David Turetsky. They will take on the Stanley Mosk Memorial Team on November 15 at 7 p.m. in the Ames Courtroom — if the courtroom is ready in time.

The team’s inception is hardly remarkable, more what one might expect: Members came together out of shared ties from their 1L section and from experiences working together on group projects in Federal Litigation. And while the team members aren’t self-proclaimed best of friends, as might be expected they seem to share an easy rapport and a clear respect for one another.

They attribute their success to just these factors.

“The fact that we all get along well is really important. Part of that is respecting each other, knowing each other,” Rubin says.

Not surprisingly, lots of hard work helps. Klinck estimates that the team put in 75 hours in the week before their first finals brief was due. He adds: “There’s been times where we’ve argued for 45 minutes about a single stupid sentence.”

Blackstone says it is embarrassing when loved ones call and ask what he has been up to for the past week. His answer? Ames. Nothing but Ames.

Rinzel Braden quips, “Yeah, people call and ask what else you’ve got going on, and you’re like … ummm … nothing. Nothing at all.”

What may be most remarkable about this group, then, is how these people engage in an activity that demands 12-hour day after 12-hour day with such apparent ease. The team seemed nonplussed, even happy to interview for this article just one hour after receiving their opponents’ brief, though they will be spending their entire weekend cooped up on the second floor of Langdell. And, Rubin points out, the team has never pulled an all-nighter to get its work done. Indeed, they’ve always finished their work early.

“After that first round, we had a pretty good sense of what to do,” she adds, explaining that frontloading and lots of organization channel the work.

But it would be a mistake to cabin these people as single-minded or boring. One of them is married, one is engaged and currently planning a wedding, one is in a long-term relationship, and a couple are single (and hoping for Ames groupies). Two — Rubin and Klinck — have been involved in the moot court competition; Blackstone works for the RECORD; Cave hosted a huge party this weekend at his home — with a brief due in T-minus six days. Klinck is on the J.O.L masthead; and Turetsky was out of town when the opponents’ brief came in.

At the end of the day, the team seems to make room for Ames for the love of legal strategizing and learning about various areas of the law. So while they joke that the competition is 90 percent pain and 10 percent payoff, it’s clear that Ames has been fun enough for this group. Rubin explains that “the misery comes in the really strict time pressure and the really strict rules we have to operate under. But the happiness comes in seeing it all come together.” Klinck concurs, saying he’d do it all over again “in a heartbeat.” It’s hard to tell if this enthusiasm stems more from their winning ways or their love of the game, but the Honorable John Minor Wisdom Memorial Team seems prepared to put it all on the line again in just a few short weeks.

The Starting Line

Bobby KlinckSelf-proclaimed “mad-scientist” and the Honorable John Minor Wisdom Memorial Team’s captain, Klinck says that he’s learned an immense amount about Con Law from Ames. Klinck is also one to watch out for at the orals on November 15th — he amassed awards for best oralist in the Ames semifinal and Best Brief for his 1L Ames effort.

Bethany RubinBethany is the team’s “organizer,” which is readily apparent as she spews forth sophisticated comments about the team’s past, present and future while simultaneously instant-messaging her mom about wedding plans. Bethany says good organization is critical — it “keeps us from degenerating into arguing about stupid things.”

Neil Cave Though Neil seems to be the resident comic, amidst laughter the team settles on “misunderstood artist” as a better moniker. He admits that he “used to get sort of a bruised ego from [getting ideas shot down], but at this point I’ve had so much cut, who cares?” Watch out for Neil on at the podium; he’s an oralist for the final round.

David TuretskyDavid is considered the team “skeptic.” Klinck says of him, “He’s always like, well, yeah, you COULD say that … but you’d be wrong.” David came to the team before the semifinal round when the team added two members.

Laura Rinzel BradenLaura is hard for the team to summarize. Klinck calls her “The Rock” (he means of the WWF-variety rather than the Biblical-variety). Team members say that she “body slams you when you step out of line.” She laughs as Cave says, “You’ll hear things out of her like, ‘Okay, it’s wrong, but okay.'”

Jason BlackstoneJason, the team says, “gets our drinks” and “lifts heavy things.” Jason laughs, accepting the ribbing good-naturedly. Jason was added to the team following the semi-finals round when original team member Matt Iverson left to pursue bigger and better things.

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