University of New Hampshire

School of Law

School of Law

UNH Law Hosts Client Counseling Competition Despite Blizzard

Winter storm Nemo will not easily be forgotten by those who lived through it, but it will be particularly memorable to the students, professors, volunteers and staff members who worked through blizzard conditions to host the American Bar Association’s Client Counseling Competition at the University of New Hampshire School of Law on Feb. 8 and 9.

Despite the second-largest snowfall in Concord’s recorded history and a storm that shut down the school for two days and rendered much of New England impassable, the regional competition went on as scheduled.

“Somehow, the school managed to make it happen in spite of all the challenges,” said Professor John Garvey, director of the school’s pioneering Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program and the event’s chief organizer. “The staff somehow got the judges and clients to show up during a blizzard, they cleared the parking lot so we could park, they fed us, they had the whole thing extremely well organized, and they actually managed to finish the contest on time. UNH Law is obviously a special place, and the New Hampshire Bar is amazing.”

The American Bar Association’s Client Counseling Competition simulates a law office consultation in which law students, acting as attorneys, are presented with a client matter. They conduct an interview with a person playing the role of the client and then explain how they would proceed further in the hypothetical situation.

UNH Law students have made it to the regional finals for the past four years and won the regional competition twice, advancing to the nationals. This year’s team consisted of Jared Madison, Ryan Ollis, Courtney Gray, Lina Shayo, Esther Dickinson and Beth Smith. Gray and Shayo competed as a pair, as did Smith and Dickinson. Madison and Ollis served as as alternate competitors, practice clients, and collaborators on research and strategy.

“I am very proud of our team this year, and the tradition they have continued,” Garvey said. Gray and Shayo performed very well against stiff competition, Garvey said, and Dickinson and Smith advanced to the finals, where they ended up placing second on an “extremely close split vote.”

Garvey credited alums Rachel Hawkinson and Joseph Citro, who themselves placed third in the national competition two years ago, with helping him to coach this year’s team. “Rachel and Joe have exemplified the spirit of ‘pay it forward,’ and we are grateful for that,” he said. “They shared their time and knowledge, which was a huge addition.”

Garvey said he was impressed by the “can do” attitude of UNH Law students, staff, and faculty when it appeared the blizzard might jeopardize the competition.

“If I started to name everyone, I'd be sure sure to miss people because so many of our students just appeared when the storm hit and did whatever was necessary,” he said. “They were greeters, organizers, substitute clients, decorators, food preparers, etc. No task was too big or too small. Many staff and faculty were also here to participate as clients and judges and to do whatever they could to help. Without the ‘can do’ attitude of the New Hampshire Bar, it would have been impossible. Nearly 50 lawyers trudged through the snow to be here for the students.”

Garvey in particular credited UNH Law staff member Krystal Johnson with the competition’s success.

“She had to constantly adjust and readjust everything as the week went by and judges and actors canceled,” he said. “At the end, we were finding replacements for the replacements. When three teams did not show on the day of the event, she had to change the brackets an hour before the first round. Through it all, Krystal just made it happen. She was truly amazing.”