In March, third-year Iowa College of Law students Emily Asp and Kassandra Ricklefs won first place in the 34th annual BMI Cardozo Entertainment and Media Law Moot Court Competition at the Cardozo Law School in New York City. After five days of arguments involving 24 law school teams from across the nation, Ms. Asp and Ms. Ricklefs prevailed against opposing counsel from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law to capture the 2018 top prize.


At Iowa, students interested in this competition commit to registering for the spring Intellectual Property (“IP”) Advocacy course well before the Cardozo prompt is released at the end of the calendar year. By participating, students get a unique opportunity to improve their brief-writing and litigation skills while working in a specialized area of law that interests them.


“I plan on going into IP as a practice area, and really enjoyed Copyrights as a class, so the subject matter for this competition appealed to me in general,” said Ms. Ricklefs, who had also participated in the Cardozo competition as a 2L. “This year was a lot easier because I knew what I was getting into and could plan a little bit better. Doing it twice definitely helped a lot—and taking the Copyrights class was also critical to success.”


Once Ms. Ricklefs and Ms. Asp decided in October that they would be interested in arguing on a copyright issue, they began working with faculty advisor Professor Christina Bohannan to develop a strong foundational understanding of how best to write a persuasive IP brief.


“We met in the fall and talked through what makes a good brief,” said Ms. Asp. “We talked about everything from formatting to the nitty gritty approaches to briefs in general so that once we did get the prompt we would be able to hit the ground running.”


This year, the Cardozo competition’s IP-themed prompt tasked each team with addressing two questions: 1) Whether respondent’s copyright for the song “Almaniizar” had been appropriately and timely registered and 2) whether, under the Copyright Act’s fair use standard, Petitioner’s song “Bought It” was sufficiently transformative to qualify as a parody. Related to this was the issue of whether non-monetary harm to the author is relevant to the analysis of market effects.


Once the prompt was released, teams were no longer allowed to consult with anyone outside of their team until they submitted their finalized briefs for the competition.


“The prompt always has two major parts to the question, so we divided the work along those lines and each stayed with our part’s argument throughout the competition,” said Ms. Asp. “I had the fair use argument and wrote that part of the brief, while [Ms. Ricklefs] covered the registration argument. She also took rebuttal because she had more experience with the complicated statutory argument and had memorized all the statutory language.”


After Ms. Asp and Ms. Ricklefs submitted their brief, they shifted their full attention to preparing for oral arguments.


“We spent a lot of time honing our arguments in the weeks before we left,” said Ms. Asp. “After we submitted the brief, we worked with Professor Bohannan, attorneys, and other members of the Iowa Law community to practice arguments and get feedback. Generally, we practiced for two hours or more every other day, so once we arrived at the competition we knew our best arguments and had practiced the really tough questions we knew we were probably going to be asked. I don’t think we had to change the structure of our arguments at all once we were there.”


The Cardozo competition involved seven rounds of arguments, with the final round judged by the Honorable Pierre Leval, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Honorable Jed Rakoff, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and the Honorable Vera Scanlon, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.


Looking back on their achievement, both Ms. Asp and Ms. Ricklefs believe they gained valuable experience that will help them throughout their legal careers.


“I think this experience in particular is valuable for learning how to approach things on your own and making sure that you learn how to self-motivate,” said Ms. Ricklefs. “It’s really just on you and your partner to motivate each other to do the work, because that’s what you have to do to be successful—and that’s a really translatable skill for other areas.”


“The biggest thing for me was learning that I liked the advocacy experience and liked arguing in front of judges. I know now that I specifically want to do litigation,” said Ms. Asp. “Writing the brief was also great, because it’s not something you typically get to do often in law school, and any sort of writing helps you get better and improve your skills.”


After graduation, Ms. Asp will be working for the Minnesota Court of Appeals as a law clerk before ultimately joining Stinson Leonard Street in Minneapolis. Ms. Ricklefs will be working at Davis Brown in Des Moines doing IP work and litigation.