EATS 2022: A Sharp Focus on Advocacy

A room full of conference attendees watches a presentation on competition ethics in Stetson Law's Great Hall
The 2022 edition of EATS was full of compelling discussions among passionate advocacy educators.

In-person for the first time since 2019, Stetson Law welcomed professionals from around the country who specialize in advocacy education to the annual Educating Advocacy Teachers (EATS) Conference on its beautiful Gulfport campus.

Taking place from June 13-15, the event offered eye-opening insights into the state of trial advocacy education in 2022 through panel discussions, workshops, breakout sessions, and even beach happy hours and improv sessions. Some 95 attendees participated; 70 of them attended in person, and 20-25 took part online.

“As advocacy experts, you are leading legal education. It’s not just about experiential learning. It’s not just about competition,” said Stetson Law Dean Michèle Alexandre at the start of a panel discussion on the art and science of persuasion. “You are helping us learn how to teach our students, how to prepare them for 21st Century real-life problem-solving. And because of that, this conference and your partnership is even more important to us.”

Three days of compelling discussions

Taking place in the Great Hall and the Florin-Roebig Courtroom, EATS events explored many dimensions of advocacy in the classroom and the competition arena. Hailing from communities across the U.S., speakers included judges, professors from top-ranked law schools for advocacy (including Stetson Law), mock trial and moot court program directors, and practicing attorneys who shared teaching techniques and experiences and explored new teaching methods, models, and technology.

“The 2022 EATS Conference was packed with creative, generous educators interested in elevating the entire advocacy community, not just themselves,” said Stetson Law Professor Elizabeth Boals, Director of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy. “This type of collaborative and collegial environment is what EATS was founded upon and will continue to foster in the future.”

One discussion explored a possible connection between the discipline and bar examination passage. Another was a hands-on demonstration of new presentation technology. Other topics included:

  • Improv as a teaching tool
  • Competition ethics
  • Creating advanced advocacy and specialized courses
  • Avoiding competition-related drama

On Wednesday, June 15, a lunchtime ceremony honored the winner of Stetson Law’s Annual Advocacy Writing Competition, Vania M. Smith, author of the article “Advocacy Competitions or Courtroom Cosplay? The Case for Rejecting Theatrics and Rewarding Authenticity at Law School Mock Trials.” The Catholic University of America School of Law alumna’s work will be published in an upcoming edition of the Stetson Journal of Advocacy and the Law.

The conference also celebrated the winners of the Edward D. Ohlbaum Professionalism Award (John Henry, Loyola School of Law Los Angeles), the Lifetime Achievement Award (Cary Bricker and Jay Leach, Pacific McGeorge School of Law), and the Cornerstone Award (Hon. Jim Roberts, Samford University Cumberland School of Law).

See the full EATS 2022 event schedule and speaker list.

The right time & place to talk advocacy

Under the leadership of Boals and her team, the latest edition of EATS carried on a tradition that has enhanced Stetson Law’s reputation as a top destination for advocacy for the better part of 20 years.

The event is just one reason Stetson Law’s advocacy program routinely sits at or near the top of U.S. News & World Report’s top schools for trial advocacy.

Through rigorous coaching from faculty, alumni, and others, students participating in the school’s three advocacy boards (Dispute Resolution, Moot Court, and Trial Team) regularly bring home competition trophies. Through hosting national and international competitions like the International Environmental Moot Court Competition and the National Pretrial Competition, the College of Law invites young advocates to sharpen their skills. Through offering experiential learning through clinics and externships, Stetson Law also ensures that students interested in advocacy gain the real-world skills they need to succeed as advocates.

See Stetson Law’s Advocacy At-A-Glance.

The 2022 event took place as construction of Stetson Law’s Advocacy Institute was well underway. Scheduled to open in June 2023, the facility will add an unprecedented amount of courtroom and collaboration space to help the college remain a national leader in advocacy, a discipline that is critical to the principle of justice for all.

“This is serious business,” Alexandre said. “We all came to law because we love it. We are decades deep in this game. And we are not going to stop because we know this is the most important thing we are doing for society. We are unleashing generations of folks. Young people, mature people, all types of folks come to law school now. They will be the ones securing democracy. They will be the ones who will help us figure out what in the devil we’re going to hand over when we pass on.”