Resident wins college legal contest

Quinnipiac University School of Law students Emily Kaas of West Haven, and Chris Satti of Milford, both members of the school's Society for Dispute Resolution, won the American Bar Association's regional Client Counseling competition held Feb. 9 at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, N.Y.

Fifteen teams from law schools in the Northeast competed. The win allows Kaas and Satti to advance to the national competition, which will be held March 21-22 at the University of Oklahoma College of Law in Norman, Okla. Twelve teams from around the country will compete at nationals.

Quinnipiac sent two teams to the regional competition and both advanced to the semifinal round. Kaas and Satti, both first-year law students, emerged with the top scores after five rounds of competition.

During the competition, students are presented with a fact pattern and are asked to counsel a client on the issue. Students must quickly develop a rapport with clients and educate them on the laws related to their case. Teams are given a score by a panel of judges after each round.

Students spend weeks preparing for the competition, reviewing possible scenarios related to this year’s competition topic, First Amendment law. The Quinnipiac team was assisted by a coach, Katrina Cessna, a fellow law student and president of the SDR; Lindsay Keeler, a third-year law student who coached Quinnipiac’s other team in the competition; the two Quinnipiac law students who also competed, including Chelsea Ruzzo and Cate Blair; and Carolyn Kaas, associate professor of law and co-director for the Center on Dispute Resolution at Quinnipiac.

“For me, this competition was so important because it gauges how well you can connect with a client right off the bat, and how comfortable, respected, and heard you make them feel,” said Kaas. “If you can do that, then you'll have their trust and their respect moving forward.”

Satti said the competition was an invaluable experience, both for his future law career and on a personal level.

“Experiencing any interpersonal relationship and being able to relate to another is a fundamental element of society,” Satti said. “Being able to associate and empathize with another human being is truly a powerful experience. It was just a plus that I can use this experience toward my legal career.”

The team’s victory marks the start of another successful year for the student organization. In 2013, students from the SDR were named regional champions in the ABA Negotiation Competition and advanced to the national semifinals. A Quinnipiac team also placed second in the regionals of the ABA Mediation Competition.