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Shellee Daniel ’21 and Alicia Johnson ’21 didn’t know which way the judges were going to rule.
The pair had already won the 2019 Donna Jo Morse Client Counseling Moot Court Competition in late October. Fast-forward to the 2019 Gabrielli Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition in mid-November: Daniel and Johnson sitting, hand-in-hand, in Albany Law School’s Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom. They were confident in their arguments, but were not sure if they had secured the victory.
And history was on the line. No team had ever swept both of Albany Law School’s fall-semester moot court competitions.
The announcement came.
“We were completely in shock,” Johnson said. “Looking back at it reminds me how special it actually was. It didn’t register until the audience started cheering.”
The back-to-back wins were almost a year in the making.
Both 2Ls, Daniel and Johnson started working together in 2018 while studying for first-semester finals. Johnson, who is from New York City, had experience with constitutional law debates during her high school days. Daniel, also from New York City, became interested in moot court competitions after volunteering to help with the 2018 Senior Prize Trials. They decided to become a team after the 2018 Gabrielli Competition.
“We became used to each other's work ethics early on,” Daniel said. “That familiarity translated well when it came time to work on the competitions because we were cognizant of each other's strengths and weaknesses. We are also very good with encouraging each other when we feel overwhelmed, and we do a good job at balancing each other out.”
Originally, they planned on participating in only the Gabrielli competition and not the Morse.
“We wanted to do only Gabrielli because it was a 2L-specific competition, but we were persuaded by the lovely [competition chair] Meghna Srikanth ‘21 to do Client Counseling,” Daniel explained. “Wow, she was right!”
The team is going out on a high note—they will not be back for the Donna Jo Morse Negotiations Competition on campus this spring.
But they will be staying busy.
Johnson has internships with
Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP in Albany and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, is a member of the Albany Law Review, and is a student ambassador in the law school’s Admissions Office.
Daniel is also a member of the Albany Law Review, vice president of both the Black Law Students Association and the Sports and Entertainment Law Society, and a student ambassador.
They aren’t staying away from competition altogether, either. Daniel and Johnson plan on adding a third teammate—Gabrielli finalist Dan Hodgkinson ’21—for the 35th Annual Dean Jerome Prince Memorial Evidence Competition at Brooklyn Law School in March.
“That will be a fun time,” said Johnson.
Hopefully, it will lead to another big moment.
“Albany Law School and moot court competitions, in particular, have helped us prepare for our careers and helped grow our networks with various judges and attorneys in Albany. It has also given us practical experience with appellate advocacy, public speaking, and interacting with ‘clients,’ and it has forced us to think outside of the box and to be quick on our feet,” Daniel said.