Setting a High Bar: Byrne Trial Team Has Record-Setting Year
Loyola’s Byrne Trial Advocacy Team has notched an unprecedented number of victories this year, with key wins in multiple categories across a variety of competitions, adding to the team’s already-storied legacy.
At the national finals of the National Trial Competition, sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Texas Young Lawyers Association, Byrne Team members Eric Bell and Michael Lewis placed second nationally. That victory capped an unheralded season that saw the Byrne Team’s win an unprecedented third regional championship. The team earned its victories at the ABA Employment Law Regional ( and were national semifinalists), the National Trial Competition regionals and the Tournament of Champions, where they were national finalists.
On their way, Bell and Lewis advanced through the preliminary rounds, the quarterfinals and the semifinals all the way up to the final round. They defeated teams from University of Missouri, Kansas City and Hamlin in the preliminary rounds, Ohio State in the quarter-finals, Stanford in the semifinals and only lost to Yale in the final round by a split decision. The competition, held in Austin, was the culmination of a nationwide tournament with more than 225 teams competing around the country in 14 regions.
The team was coached by Director of Trial Advocacy Susan Poehls, and Byrne alumni Mark Drew and Larry Lawrence. Adjunct Professor Sean Kennedy, Tom Girardi, Brian Ward, Christa Haggai-Ramey, David de Rubertis and Corey La Plante helped prepare the team.
Previously, the Byrne Team competed in the annual Student Trial Advocacy Competition, sponsored by the American Association for Justice. One team, consisting of students Ariel Anson, Sophie Etemadi, Jesse Leon and Edgar Vera, was named Regional Champions after defeating UCLA in the finals. In the earlier rounds, the team won every single ballot against teams from Mc George, Berkeley, Chapman and Santa Clara. The team was coached by Loyola (and Byrne Team) alumni John Henry, Kimberly Greene and James Sargent.
In February, the Byrne Teams dominated the National Trial Competition Regionals, achieving its 21st victory. The team of Bell and Lewis were named Regional Champions after going undefeated – winning all five of their trials against Pepperdine (two teams), Thomas Jefferson, Southwestern and University of La Verne. They defeated the second Pepperdine team in the final round.
The group’s second team of Ani Artsvelyan and Hillary Burrelle also went undefeated in all three preliminary rounds against Western State, USD and University of La Verne. They defeated UCLA in the semifinals and lost the final round against USD by only one point on one ballot. "All four of these team members performed like seasoned trial attorneys,” said Susan Poehls, team coach. “I am incredibly proud of them."
Whittier Law School hosted and provided the witnesses. The tournament only allows advocates to meet with witnesses for 15 minutes before the round starts. During the competition, students conducted opening statements, closing arguments, direct and cross examination, and argued motions in limine. The team began prepping in early January. The team meets two nights a week and then conducts full trials each weekend in front of team alums, local trial attorneys and judges. Poehls participated in the competition as a student in 1989 before going on to become team coach.
The team was coached by Poehls, Drew and Lawrence. It was assisted by Professor Laurie Levenson, Kennedy and Judge Lawrence Cho, as well as Byrne Team alumni Brian Ward, Chris Ardalan and Christina Catapang.
Read more about the legacy of Loyola’s trial and appellate advocacy teams.