Sewanee has been the starting point for many successful careers in the private practice of law, the corporate world, government and the armed forces, non-profits, and in law schools. Sam Elliott, C'78, recently served as President of the Tennessee State Bar, and Angus Macaulay, C'86, has completed a term as President of the South Carolina State Bar. Robin Rotman, C'04, Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Yale Law School, has joined Van Ness Feldman, where she works in environmental and energy law. David Barnes, C'05, graduated first in his class at Vanderbilt Law School in May 2011, even as Ryan Barry, C'08, graduated first in his class at the University of Tennessee School of Law. Matthew Lafferman, C'10, graduated magna cum laude at the George Mason School of Law after serving on their law review, and LaToyia Slay, C'11, graduated as the valedictorian of Mississippi College of Law in 2014. Martha Ferson, C'11, is in her second year at Yale Law School.
Such outcomes are the result of many things, but at Sewanee it is clear that bright, engaged undergraduates greatly benefit from a rigorous liberal arts curriculum taught by faculty members committed to the life of the mind and to mentoring as well as challenging their students. As Brannon Denning, C’92, who is now Professor of Law at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University put it:
“With Sewanee’s emphasis on critical thinking, as well as effective oral and written communication, students—whatever their major—find themselves well-prepared for the rigors of law school. Moreover, the close student-faculty ties encouraged at Sewanee mean that students are eager to establish similar relationships with law school faculty. Those interactions are not only helpful to a student’s education, but can be very important professionally as well.”
Each fall, Sewanee students form legal teams to participate in the Appellate Moot Court Collegiate Challenge against teams from colleges and universities across Tennessee. In September, a case is posted, and teams begin writing a brief, which is submitted in advance of oral arguments. One weekend in November, legal teams converge in Nashville at the Capitol. There, in the old Supreme Court chambers, legal teams participate in oral arguments. There are preliminary and intermediate rounds of arguments before the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Court (a panel of judges selected by colleges and universities across the state). During these rounds, each legal team has the opportunity to argue both as petitioner and as respondent. Teams are assessed by a Jury of View (comprised of lawyers from the State Bar), and the two highest-scoring teams compete for the championship. On Sunday morning, the Supreme Court delivers its decision, and the Jury of View presents awards to the best teams, lawyers, and justices. In the past, Sewanee teams have made it to the semi-final round.