Tax Moot Court team places first in national competition
From left, Todd Lewis (LL.M.), Michael Bruno (2L), Professor Steve Willis, James Baley (3L) and Kevin Hall (3L) of the UF Law Tax Moot Court team took first place in the national competition earlier this month. (Photo by Vincent Massaro)
By Jared Misner
Todd Lewis knows a thing or two about James Baley's talent.
As co-coach for the University of Florida's 2011 Tax Moot Court team, Lewis has helped Baley (3L) prepare for the national competition since December.
And last month, the three-member UF team took first prize at the competition in St. Petersburg with Baley also claiming the title of Best Individual Oralist.
But Lewis knows, perhaps better than most, just how good Baley and the rest of the UF team are — Baley and UF beat Lewis' school, Charleston School of Law, in the 2010 competition.
"One of the reasons I hired (Lewis) was because I wanted him to help coach this team because I saw how good he was," said Professor of Law Steven Willis, UF's Tax Moot Court team coach.
Having only competed in the 16-team national competition for three years, UF took home its first first-prize award this year, edging out Ohio Northern University, after placing second in both 2009 and 2010.
But it hasn't been easy, Baley said.
Baley and Willis said the team, which also included Michael Bruno (2L) and Kevin Hall (3L), had a practice schedule of about 10 to 12 hours every week, in addition to each student's full-time class schedule.
For Baley, he knew the work had paid off when he got to argue before a three-member panel of United States Tax Court judges in the sixth and final round of this year's competition.
"You get to sort of match wits with some pretty sophisticated and experienced judges," Baley said. "I enjoy getting in a conversation with the three judges and seeing what we can figure out."
And Willis, who's coached the team for three years, isn't bashful to mention just how impressed he is with his winning team.
"Watching the team progress over time just warms my heart," he said. "I learn a tremendous amount as well."
And for UF's winning team, eyes are already set on next year's competition.
"We're constantly trying to improve," Willis said. "We're focusing on next year."
But until then, Willis is awaiting the arrival of the competition's trophy, a large silver bowl, in which UF's name will soon accompany the names of the winners from the past quarter-century.
And Willis thinks UF students and faculty should see the trophy.
"I'd be lying if I said winning wasn't my favorite part," Willis said.