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National Champs! MC Law Students Score Decisive Victory in Health Law Transactional Competition

Jonathan F. Will, center, an associate dean at the Mississippi College School of Law, holds the 2022 L. Edward Bryant Jr. National Health Law Transactional Competition championship plaque won by the MC Law team comprised of, from left, McKenna Cloud. 3L; Megan Donaldson, 2L; RJ Lewis, 2L; and James Tulp, 2L.
Jonathan F. Will, center, an associate dean at the Mississippi College School of Law, holds the 2022 L. Edward Bryant Jr. National Health Law Transactional Competition championship plaque won by the MC Law team comprised of, from left, McKenna Cloud. 3L; Megan Donaldson, 2L; RJ Lewis, 2L; and James Tulp, 2L.

Four students representing the Mississippi College School of Law edged out teams from the University of Alabama School of Law and Baylor Law School to win a prestigious national health law competition.

McKenna Cloud, Megan Donaldson, Erienne Reniajal “RJ” Lewis, and James Tulp outscored representatives from seven other law schools that advanced to the competition’s final presentation round to capture the 2022 L. Edward Bryant Jr. National Health Law Transactional Competition sponsored by the Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

It was the second time in three years a team from MC Law has won this national championship, which draws dozens of schools from across the country.

Patricia W. Bennett, MC Law dean and Henry Vaughan Watkins and Selby Watkins McRae Professor of Law, congratulated the team on its victory.

“We are very proud that our MC Law team won this national health care transactional competition,” Bennett said. “This is a big deal!”

Jonathan F. Will, an associate dean at MC Law who directs and teaches in the school’s Health Law Program, called the victory a “feather in the cap” for MC Law.

“There aren’t a lot of national competitions for law students that draw teams from all over the country,” said Will, who served as the team’s faculty coach. “To compete and win against so many well-respected, strong schools is incredible.”

Local law firm Watkins & Eager sponsored the MC Law team to participate in the event. The competition is unique among law student exercises: Instead of the typical litigation-oriented appellate or trial-practice events in which law students argue against their opponents and advocate for their clients, the students here apply their transactional lawyering skills and regulatory analysis to provide legal advice on a potential business opportunity to a hypothetical health care client.

“You’re not trying to convince a judge about the merits of your case,” Will said. “You’re on the same team as the judges who act as members of the client’s board of directors. It’s a different dynamic. It’s not adversarial, but you do have to make your clients aware of certain risks that are involved with their decisions.

“It’s complicated law.”

The three-person teams of J.D. students – with one alternate each – prepared a legal memorandum that summarized their legal and business advice for the client. The teams with the top eight memo scores presented their analysis of the client’s position to distinguished attorney-judges via Zoom and made recommendations on how the client should proceed.

“They didn’t receive a single negative comment from any of the judges,” Will said. “They were presented a very dense problem with a lot of moving parts. When I read it, I didn’t know how in 30 minutes they could address everything, but somehow, they did. It was quite impressive.”

The American Health Lawyers Association provided prizes to the winning team. Each MC Law team member received a copy of the AHLA’s “Fundamentals of Health Law” textbook, complimentary registration to the AHLA’s annual meeting June 27-29 in Chicago, and $500.

Cloud, who served as this year’s team captain and also represented MC Law in last year’s competition, said the school’s health law classes helped the team stand toe-to-toe with the most prestigious law schools in the country.

“From last year’s competition, I learned that team synergy is essential,” said Cloud, a Biloxi resident who earned her B.S. in communication studies at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2019. “It is vital for each of us to assist one another in researching and writing to create a strong final product. This year, we were intentional to write our team memorandum with one voice and deliver our presentation to the mock board of directors with a similar energy.

“To accomplish this, we devoted many months to memo drafts, a comprehensive PowerPoint, and presentation practices.”

Once they had been selected to advance to the final round of the competition, the team had less than three weeks to prepare its virtual presentation to the mock board of directors. During the days leading up to their presentation, the students invited health care attorneys and other professionals to serve as mock judges and directors and provide detailed feedback for them to review during their late-night practices.

“By the time we competed, we were well-prepared to respond to the judges’ questions,” she said. “Our team worked together seamlessly. Each teammate diligently researched his or her designated legal issue and addressed it in the joint memorandum and presentation. We all helped one another with each other’s legal issues to ensure we covered all the bases.

“Not only did we work hard, but our personalities also all complemented one another. This combination created a positive and memorable experience for all of us.”

During the written portion of the competition, the team wasn’t allowed to interact with their coach other than to ask vague questions related to the written portion of the given problem. Once the team was selected for the presentation round, Will was able to attend practices and help the team prepare by asking questions he thought might be asked by the judges.

“I was really impressed by the work they put in,” he said. “They took advice and constructive criticism well during their practices. It was a lot of work during the semester when they’re having to do a lot of other things, and they sacrificed their spring break to practice and prepare for the competition.

“They stood out to the judges based on the breadth of their coverage and the way they worked together as a team. They felt like a cohesive unit as opposed to three separate people who only knew about their own work.”

A member of MC Law’s Moot Court Board and editor-in-chief of the “MC Law Review,” Cloud said her family’s association with health care led her to register for a health law course during her second year of law school.

“Because my parents own a mental health clinic and my husband is about to attend medical school, I figured I should know at least something in case a family member had a health law-related question for me,” she said. “Little did I know this class would set me on a trajectory toward pursuing health care law as a passion and career.”

“This initial interest sparked by the health law course inspired me to explore this field in greater depth.”

During the next two years, she wrote a health law-related article for the Law Review, performed a health law-related externship, pursued MC Law’s Health Law Certificate, and competed in the transactional competition twice.

“The competition particularly interested me because it allows students to experience what it feels like to practice as a health care transactional attorney – a career to which I was eager for exposure.”

Upon completing a clerkship with Judge Leslie H. Southwick of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Cloud plans to practice health care transactional law with Baker Donelson in Jackson.

“Throughout my career, I aim to expand access to health care in our state and advise health care entities and providers as we navigate through legal considerations,” she said. “Competing in this competition taught me not only that I am capable of researching and applying complex legal issues raised by health care transactions, but also that I enjoy doing so.”

Whether any of the team members elect to enter health law, Will said they will carry the experience of participating in the transactional competition with them into their professional careers.

“I tell students all the time, sometimes you’ve got to do things to learn whether you like them or not,” he said. “This was a valuable opportunity for them to see what transactional work looks like and get a sense of how a transactional lawyer approaches a problem.”

To view the team’s performance in the 2022 L. Edward Bryant Jr. National Health Law Transactional Competition, click here.