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Lea Westman Leads St. Thomas IP Moot Court to National Competition

Zoom has helped meetings and family events continue during the COVID-19 crisis, and this month, it was also the location for the AIPLA Giles Sutherland Rich Moot Court Competition 2020. Schwegman patent attorney Lea Westman coaches the University of St. Thomas School of Law AIPLA Moot Court Team. For the third year in a row, St. Thomas advanced to the AIPLA national competition. Competing via Zoom, the St. Thomas team advanced to the semifinal round.

Lea (St. Thomas Class of ‘15) and two assistant coaches, Adam Szymanksi (Patterson Thuente) and Lee Bennin (’19, MN Court of Appeals) teach a year-long Moot Court course at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Each school year, AIPLA releases a fictitious court case, including the record of the case at the district level. Lea explains, “We help the students prepare an appellate brief and argument. In the fall, we are focused on writing, so we teach lectures on patent law and appellate procedure, and then oversee and help direct the students’ research and writing. The students produce two full-length appellate briefs, one for each side.”

In the spring, the students focus on speaking. Lea continues, “From February through March, we prepare the students to present oral argument as if they were presenting at Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. At practices, the students run through the entire argument in front of a three-person guest judge panel, made up of local attorneys who practice in patents or appellate litigation.” These volunteer lawyers who act as judges play an important role in helping the students prepare for competition. “This year, we had over twenty attorneys volunteer their time, including ten from SLW. The array of volunteers teaches our students to think on their feet while getting to know and discuss the law.”

From there, the team competes against students from other law schools. During competition season, the University of St. Thomas takes part in the MIPLA Cup against the University of Minnesota and Mitchell Hamline before going to the AIPLA Regional Competition in Chicago. There, St. Thomas encounters teams from throughout the Midwest. The top two teams from the regional competition then advance to the AIPLA National Tournament.

Each year that Lea has been a St. Thomas coach, the team has advanced to the AIPLA national competition. This year, the team was a finalist in the Midwest regional competition, and won an award for best brief. At nationals, St. Thomas was a semifinalist, and one of the top four teams in the nation.

“It’s an honor to work with such dedicated and talented students,” Lea reflects. “We are very proud of the work they have done. I’m already talking to students who are interested in participating next year.”

Community involvement is an important element of Schwegman firm culture. Being a part of the Twin Cities, Silicon Valley, and Austin communities, as well as other geographic areas where our satellite attorneys live and work, is an integral piece of our work and mission.

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