Quinnipiac Law wins national ABA client counseling competition

Parry, Blair and Anderson on a Zoom video conference

Overcoming obstacles

Megan Spicer, JD '20, Brandy Parry, JD '20, and their client, played by Chris Iverson, JD '22, compete in the 2020 National Counseling Competition.

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uinnipiac University School of Law students Brandy Parry, JD '20 and Megan Spicer, JD '20 won the 2019-20 American Bar Association law student division Client Counseling Competition held virtually by video conference earlier this month.

Parry and Spicer are both third-year law students and members of Quinnipiac’s Society for Dispute Resolution team.

The national finals originally were scheduled to take place at Quinnipiac, but the university's Society for Dispute Resolution team completely redesigned the competition so that it would be held virtually via Zoom in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Parry and Spicer competed in the national finals on April 4, interviewing their client on Zoom as judges watched in real time. It marked the first time the competition was held virtually. Each team competed in five rounds.

“In a traditional client counseling competition, teams are judged on their ability to meet with a potential client for the first time, do some fact-finding, identify the legal issues at play and help provide some guidance moving forward for the potential client,” Spicer said. “We are evaluated on our ability to build trust and rapport with the client through our sincere empathy, while at the same time, sometimes having to deliver bad news. Teamwork is critical and having an open dialogue with the client and not just talking at the client is paramount.

“This was generally the same for the virtual competition, though there were some obvious differences,” Spicer added. “Our team was the only team to do all our meetings fully remote and from separate locations.”

Parry and Spicer said it was their goal to win a national championship since their first year of law school. They competed against law school teams from Baylor, Creighton, Campbell, Drake, McGeorge, South Texas and Southern Methodist and Stetson.

“It’s been a fantastic circle, to have started together as 1Ls competing in intramurals to ending in our final year as national champions,” Parry said.

More than 40 lawyers and counselors judged the competition. Each team competed anonymously. One of the judges was attorney Andrew Knott, a 2003 Quinnipiac graduate.

“Each team displayed insightful analysis, spotting ethical issues and creating an empathetic connection with their client — even through Zoom,” Knott said. “The future of our profession is bright.”

It was not an easy path to the finals. Back in February, Parry, Spicer and coach Catherine Blair, a 2016 Quinnipiac law graduate, flew to Kentucky to compete in the regionals at the University of Louisville. They experienced several flight delays because of tornadoes and spent the night at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A false emergency alarm at the start of competition at the University of Louisville further delayed the regionals, but the Quinnipiac students persevered.

“This feels like an incredible redemption arc,” said Spicer, referring to Quinnipiac’s success despite all the unrelenting twists and turns of this year’s competition and the new normal students face with the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is a silver lining that boosts morale in our law school community.”

Chelsea Vetre, a 2015 Quinnipiac Law graduate, coached the team in the finals.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the adaptability and resolve demonstrated by Meg and Brandy,” said Carrie Kaas, associate dean for experiential education at the Quinnipiac School of Law. “They overcame a multitude of obstacles and translated client skills using new technologies, ultimately bringing home the first-ever victory for Quinnipiac Law as National Client Counseling champions.”