National Trial Team

The Trial Team celebrates after winning the 2014 New York Regional of the ABA Labor and Employment Law Competition for the second consecutive year. Left to Right: Steve Patton '15, Farzana Islam '16, Coach Matthew Helman, Brian McBeth '15 and Graham Bickel '16

The National Trial Team is a student organization that focuses on oral advocacy at the trial level. The Trial Team represents Villanova at regional and national competitions hosted by other law schools and bar associations across the country. In these competitions, the Trial Team competes against the nation’s best law student advocates in simulated jury trials, which are scored by judges and seasoned attorneys.

Students on the Trial Team are fortunate to be coached by some of the region’s finest litigators, all of whom competed on a team during law school. Under the tutelage of these experienced litigators, students learn how to take a case and prepare it from pretrial to trial disposition. Students understand how to craft a coherent and consistent case theory by applying the given facts to the law. They learn to reason and argue extemporaneously by using the Rules of Evidence as their ally. They practice to communicate logically and to connect with the jury on an emotional level. Trial Team members are molded into professional and skilled litigators.

Trial Team members learn the art of trial advocacy through the best way possible: practice. The competitions in which students participate serve as the best learning tools. Before trial, competitors both argue and respond to pretrial motions concerning the admissibility of evidence. During the trial, competitors will advocate on their client’s behalf through opening statements, direct examination, cross examination and closing arguments.  Competitors use the Federal Rules of Evidence to demonstrate why the evidence offered to the jury is either admissible or inadmissible.

Most members of the Trial Team compete in two external competitions: one in the fall and the spring. A typical semester begins with forming a few small teams, generally teams of four. Then, these smaller teams are assigned to compete at external tournaments around the country. The work then begins with the competition’s release of the case packet (about two months before the competition). Teams will meet a few times per week to practice for the competition. Because of this work and dedication, members of the Trial Team are graded by their faculty coach and receive two academic credits that count toward the spring semester.  


Those interested in competing on the Trial Team can apply for membership in two ways: competing in the 1L Intramural Competition in April or entering summer tryouts. In the 1L Intramural Competition, students litigate a case by giving an opening statement, examinations and a closing argument. The winner of this competition is guaranteed a spot on the Trial Team. The tryout process is in June. Those who try out will be given one week to digest a sample fact pattern and to deliver a persuasive closing argument in the Ceremonial Courtroom. After tryouts, the attorney coaches and student leaders will extend membership offers to between four and eight students.    

Contact Us:

Professor Anne Bowen Poulin: 2015-2016 Faculty Advisor

Graham Bickel: 2015-2016 Trial Team Chair


Members of the 2014-2015 National Trial Team

Third-Year Students

John Hickey
Sean Mahoney 
Brian McBeth
Steve Patton
Zach Smith
Heather Staggs

Second-Year Students

Graham Bickel
Ryan Furlong
Matthew Giannascoli
Farzana Islam
Alexandra Pecora
Charles Nucciarone

The Trial Team has established itself as one of the most competitive trial advocacy organizations in the region. For two consecutive years, the Team has been crowned champion of the New York Regional of the ABA Labor and Employment Law Competition, thereby qualifying for the national tournament. Additionally, the Team has advanced to the final rounds in several prestigious competitions. 

Students competing on the Trial Team have been equally successful after graduating from Villanova University School of Law. In fact, members of the Trial Team have gone on to litigate at national firms and public interest offices across the region. The following is a list of some of the employers who have recently hired former Trial Team members:

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
White and Williams LLP
Goldberg Segalla LLP
Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, P.C.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
Defenders Association of Philadelphia
The Montgomery County Public Defender



  • Regional Champion: ABA Labor and Employment Law Competition
    • National Tournament Qualifier
  • National Semifinalist: ABA Labor and Employment Law Competition
  • Regional Semifinalist: TYLA National Trial Competition
  • Semifinalist: Capitol City Challenge


  • Regional Champion: ABA Labor and Employment Law Competition
    • National Tournament Qualifier
  • National Runner-Up: ABA Labor and Employment Law Competition
  • Quarterfinalist: Capitol City Challenge


  • Regional Semifinalist: ABA Labor and Employment Law Competition
  • Regional Quarterfinalist: National Trial Competition


  • Semifinalist: Capitol City Challenge
  • Regional Quarterfinalist: TYLA National Trial Competition



  • Regional Champion: ABA National Arbitration Competition
    • National Tournament Qualifier


  • Semifinalist: Lone Star Classic
    • National Tournament Qualifier
  • Regional Champion: TYLA National Trial Competition
    • National Tournament Qualifier


  • Champion: Lone Star Classic
    • National Tournament Qualifier
  • Regional Champion: TYLA National Trial Competition
    • National Tournament Qualifier

"Trial Team provided me an opportunity within academia to develop, test and fine-tune skills that are necessary for the practicing litigator. It was an invaluable experience that helped put me ahead in my career." -Vincent Barbera '09, White & Williams LLP


"As a law student, Trial Team provides the rare opportunity to learn skills that don't come out of a book or from a large group lecture. You learn practical courtroom trial skills from practicing trial attorneys. Nothing comes close for a law student with ambitions to be a practicing trial lawyer someday."  -Matthew Helman -'10, Defender Association of Philadelphia


"The skills I learned on the Trial Team prepared me well for a career as an Assistant District Attorney. With coaches who work as prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, and litigators in Philadelphia's largest law firms, the Trial Team prepares students to go toe-to-toe with the best trial attorneys in the region" -Steven Patton '15


Contact Us

Matt McGovern
Director of Experiential Learning
Villanova University School of Law

"My intensive trial experience on the Villanova Trial Team prepared me well to be an Assistant District Attorney."

- Michelle Stranen, VLS '08