Temple Law’s National Trial Team was victorious in the annual Kelly Competition at Fordham Law School this November. Teams representing law schools all over the country were judged on their advocacy skills, alternating between prosecuting and defending a criminal trial.
Third-year student Rachel Berson and 2L Christopher DiRienzi, took top honors this year, defeating exceptional teams from Stetson University School of Law in the semi-finals, and Georgetown University Law Center in the finals. The win was a repeat of Temple’s success in the competition last year.
“No team was better prepared, more credible, or more authentically themselves than Rachel and Chris,” said coach Matt Capacete, a former trial team member. “Their teamwork was seamless, and despite facing an incredibly challenging and complicated case file from both sides, they appeared to have fun as they presented their case while remaining professional and respectful to everyone they encountered.”
Berson and DiRienzi agreed that their team camaraderie helped solidify a win for Temple Law.
“In a competition like this one where there’s a lot going on and a lot of information to manage, it’s so important to have someone sitting next to you that you can trust and rely on,” Berson said. “I think our teamwork and communication throughout the competition contributed to our success.”
“I could not have asked for a better teammate.”
DiRienzi said he was a late addition to the team, just finding out a few weeks before the competition that he would compete. He questioned whether he had the expertise to contribute to the team’s success. With the support of “evidence wizard” Berson, DiRienzi said he had the help of the “greatest trial partner in the world.”
“At every moment throughout the weekend, she had my back, and was there to pick me up when I needed it the most,” DiRienzi said.
Capacete said the team’s preparation and rapport allowed them to have fun as they ran a gamut of six trials over the course of the weekend.
“Judges and juries repeatedly looked to them as the stewards of what to think about the facts, law, and weight of evidence in their case,” Capacete said. “I am incredibly proud of what they accomplished, but more importantly, how they did so.”
Berson gave a shoutout to “scrimmage squad” members, 2L Mayce Van and 2L Daniel Flores, who “put a lot of work into helping us prepare as well as giving us the opportunity to practice directing and crossing witnesses.” Berson, DiRienzi, Van, and Flores are all Beasley Scholars.
“Their contributions were incredibly helpful, and we were lucky to have them as part of the team,” Berson said.
She added that much of the team’s success is owed to the support they received from coaches Capacete and Ayodale Tan.
“Dale and Matt provided us with so much guidance and support while also giving us the autonomy to make decisions and judgment calls about how we wanted to try the case,” Berson said. “Working with them throughout the semester has made me a more confident and more effective advocate.”
DiRienzi added that while he felt some uncertainty about his place on the trial team due to his limited time to prepare, Capacete and Tan offered the support necessary to ease his lingering doubts.
“They always made time for us, to hear our crazy theories, to talk us off the ledge, and point us in the right direction,” DiRienzi said. “They made the preparation process fun and educational, and I feel so much better equipped for law school, and life as an attorney because of them.”
“I truly had the best team in the world, and I couldn’t be more thankful.”