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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– The University of Tennessee College of Law has been honored by a national organization of lawyers for the way in which it trains trial attorneys.

UT is the winner of the American College of Trial Lawyers’ 1996 Emil Gumpert Award for Excellence in Teaching Trial Advocacy.

The honor is UT-Knoxville’s second national award this month. The textiles and clothing program was ranked No. 1 in the nation by a textiles journal.

The Gumpert award is given annually by the ACTL to a law school in the United States or Canada deemed to have achieved a superior level of excellence in the teaching of trial advocacy. There are 178 U.S. law schools accredited by the American Bar Association.

Previous Gumpert winners include Harvard, Yale, New York University and UCLA. The award was established in 1975 to honor the late Emil Gumpert, chancellor-founder of ACTL.

Criteria for the award include an institution’s clinical programs, teaching methods, intraschool and interschool mock trial competitions, student clerkships, and special programs in which trial advocacy are taught.

“This is an exceptional honor,” said UT Law Dean Richard S. Wirtz. “It isn’t as sexy as the U.S. News & World Report rankings, but in a real sense it means more.”

The UT College of Law was ranked No. 47 nationally in the 1996 U.S. News & World Report survey of American Law Schools published in March.

“The award is very competitive,” Wirtz said. “It is based on a thorough on-site review of the school’s program — almost an audit — done by members of the College of Trial Lawyers and reviewed by the selection committee and then the college itself.”

The UT Legal Clinic, founded in 1947, is the oldest continually operating clinic in the United States. Students receive hands-on training in criminal and civil advocacy and mediation techniques.

Just recently, the college adopted a new concentration in advocacy and dispute resolution that uses advanced teaching methods and technology to train students in the full range of techniques for solving disputes.

UT moot court teams have twice won the ABA national competition and in 1993 captured the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ trial competition. The college also sponsors two intramural competitions each spring for second- and third-year law students, Wirtz said.

“We have an outstanding program in advocacy and dispute resolution,” Wirtz said. “The award is a tribute to everyone who teaches in the program, including the lawyers and judges from the community who make a contribution that is absolutely indispensable.”

Founded in 1950, the American College of Trial Lawyers is a national honorary organization that limits membership to outstanding U.S. and Canadian trial lawyers with more than 15 years of experience. Total membership cannot exceed 1 percent of the practicing attorneys in each state or province and candidates for membership must be nominated by state and province committees and approved by the ACTL’s board of regents.

Contact: Dick Wirtz (423-974-2521)

R.G. Smithson (423-974-0687)