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College of Law students place 2nd at national ABA competition
Marci Crank has but one gripe about Kyle Ridgeway -- and it has nothing to do with his skills as an aspiring lawyer.
"He's from Kelly Walsh," the Natrona County High School graduate says with a smirk.
Ridgeway rolls his eyes and chuckles. "She still gives me guff about that," he says.
"I am just teasing you," says Crank, a smile lighting her face.
There are hundreds of law students around the United States who probably wish Crank and Ridgeway were still rivals rather than teammates.
Just months after forming an unlikely partnership, Crank and Ridgeway earned one of the University of Wyoming College of Law's greatest achievements with a second-place showing in March at the American Bar Association's (ABA) Student Client Counseling Competition. The UW duo from Casper lost by a single point to Christine Baughman and Audrey Johnson of the University of Nebraska at the largest of the ABA's four annual national lawyering skills competitions.
"When you think about the number of competitors nationwide, in an ultra-competitive law school environment, I think it's incredible that these two finished in second place," says Matt Wilson, a UW associate law professor who coached Crank and Ridgeway. "When I was watching the intra-school competition and I saw that they teamed up, I thought immediately, ‘Hey, we could possibly have a magical outcome here.' And I think that's exactly what we got: A magical outcome."
The Client Counseling Competition encourages students to develop interviewing, planning and analytical skills in the lawyer-client relationship. The competition simulates a law office setting, with the student attorneys conducting client interviews and providing legal guidance before a panel of three judges, and emphasizes communication and other interpersonal skills essential to sound representation of clients.
DePaul University finished in third place at the national competition, which pitted the championship teams from each of the ABA's 12 regions. Crank and Ridgeway won the Region 12 title by beating 15 other teams from law schools in Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
"The competition was actually a lot of fun, because there's no prep. You just have to [be a lawyer]," says Ridgeway, a third-year UW law student who will begin work with Jamieson and Robinson, LLC, of Casper, following his successful completion of the bar exam. "In other competitions, people have everything memorized but that's not how it happens in real life. You just had somebody come into your office and you got to talk to them, find out their problem was and help them find a solution.
"There wasn't any fakeness to it. You just had to be legitimately good at it."
The second-place finish isn't only a testament to Crank and Ridgeway but the UW College of Law, one of the nation's smallest with about 225 students, compared to 1,500 at some of the larger schools. Crank and Ridgeway say they benefited from many of the attributes that are unique to UW, including easy access and one-on-one interaction with faculty and practical hands-on training.
In addition to Wilson, the UW students say Dean Stephen Easton, Associate Dean Denise Burke and Professors Jerry Parkinson and Demetria Jackson all dedicated their time to help prepare them for success.
"These people gave us hours of their time, and I just find it hard to believe you can get that any place else," says Crank, who was the only second-year law student to place among the top three teams at nationals.
"I just think this a real great example of the high-quality education you receive, both in high school and college, within the four boundaries of this state."
At UW, Ridgeway says he has received a law school experience that he doesn't believe could be replicated at another school.
"My friends from Gonzaga, where I did my undergraduate studies, scattered to different law schools all over the country. In talking to them, even during my first year here, everybody said, ‘If I could pick a law school again, I would come to the University of Wyoming,'" he says. "I got to argue in front of the Wyoming Supreme Court as a first-year law student. I know all my professors and all my professors know me. The opportunities that you have here are just amazing. I think that I'm more prepared to practice law, coming from this school, than I would be if I were studying anywhere else."
Even Crank's friendly needling has helped. It's grown his tolerance.
"I have to tease you about something, Kyle," she tells him.
"Yeah," he says through a smile, "I know."