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Four UTA students will hone legal skills at moot court in Austria

ARLINGTON -- For the four pre-law students at the University of Texas at Arlington, it's moot if they win or lose their case in international court.

Jesse Calderon, Olivia Llanes, Neal Parekh and Verica Todorovic are getting some great experience for their future legal careers as the only undergraduate students in the country participating in an international moot court in Vienna this month.

As part of their work, the group is preparing two 30-page legal briefs and fine-tuning their arguments that will be presented to the court at Vienna University.

They are all working on political science degrees with a concentration in pre-law.

"We've had no life since last summer," Llanes said. "Many people try out for moot court, and many people drop it because of all the work that it is."

In moot court competition, law-student teams do the background work and then present cases in mock trials. Groups from UT Arlington have already participated in state-level collegiate moot courts.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, Llanes said, is holding a team together throughout the months of intensive work preceding the competition.

But raising the $12,000 required for the trip can be just as exhausting as the writing and researching, she said. The Vis Arbitrational Moot runs from March 28 to April 7.

The students are about $3,000 short of their goal, Llanes said.

Llanes, a 22-year-old senior who is a graduate of Trinity High School in Euless, plans to specialize in immigration law. She intends to take a year off after graduation to study for her law school entrance exam.

In preparing for the moot court, the four-person law-student team works and trains as two two-person teams. Llanes' partner is Parekh.

"I know he has a lot more experience than I do," Llanes said. "He's been doing debate ever since he was in high school. I was in the IB [International Baccalaureate] program, and that took up all my time in high school."

This is the second time that a UT Arlington team has gone to the Vienna competition. The first was in 2006.

Her advice to others contemplating a moot court appearance?

"If you really want to do it, you have to give it your all," Llanes said. "We have high expectations from people who help us."

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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