By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications May 11, 2010 (Photo credit: Sandra Contreras)

Edward C. Hopkins Jr. has won more UA law school mock trial competitions than any other UA student. He graduates this week and plans to join a law firm later this year.

Edward C. Hopkins Jr. began pursuing a University of Arizona law degree because he wanted a deeper understanding of business-oriented legal matters. 

But that changed at the start of his second year after taking Thomas A. Mauet's evidence course  at the James E. Rogers College of Law.

With Mauet's advice, Hopkins began participating in mock trials. Though he lacked mock trial experience, Hopkins won three of the college's competitions – a feat no other UA law student has accomplished – and is now set to become a trial lawyer.

"A lot of students had competed in mock trials as undergraduates, but I had never done anything like that," said Hopkins, who graduates from the UA this month with his juris doctor degree. 

Each year, the law school hosts two competitions: the Jenckes Team Closing Argument Competition, held during the fall, and the Richard Grand Damages Closing Argument Competition during the spring semester. Most students participate in the arguments their last two years of study, competing up to four times.

While no student has ever won all four competitions, Hopkins is the first to win three of them – twice for the Jenckes Team competition and once for the Richard Grand argument. For the fourth competition, the Richard Grand argument in 2009, he placed second.

Hopkins was also a two-year member of the law school’s National Trial Team. He and his teammates also were named finalists in the 2010 National Trial Competition Regional Tournament, which was held in February in San Diego, Calif. – a first for Arizona law students.  

Mauet, the Milton O. Riepe Professor and trial advocacy director for the College of Law, said not only is Hopkins a "hard worker" and a skilled speaker, but he is tenacious in his work.

"Ed has competed in everything he's been eligible to compete in over the last two years, and he has done exceptionally well," Mauet said. "So he's someone who has gotten noticed."

For his work and accomplishments, Hopkins was presented last month with the law school's William T. Birmingham Trial Advocacy Award, an honor that goes to the strongest student in trial advocacy and comes with a $2,000 prize.

"Ed has a speaking style that is very persuasive. He just draws you in," Mauet said. "He has the knack for public speaking and a way of turning a phrase that makes simple ideas very memorable. That's a gift good public speakers have." 

For instance, during this spring's Richard Grand Damages Competition, Hopkins read through materials, exhibits and other evidence to frame his 15-minute argument about a case in which a physician was wrongfully accused of stealing a vial of perfume. 

"I tried to feel her emotions, to empathize with her and focused on how to make the average juror feel that emotion," said Hopkins, who specializes in trial advocacy and business law. 

As part of nearly 25 hours of preparation, Hopkins also consulted with his wife, daughter, mother-in-law and sister, asking them how they would react in such a situation.

"What I try to do is understand the psychology of characters," he said. "You don't have to know the people, but you can understand the prototype. This is what being human is all about – stories." 

Hopkins attempted to persuade the judges that the physician should get more than $3.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages for past and future harm.

After winning the Jenckes Cup in a 2008 competition against Arizona State University law students, Hopkins became passionate about trial advocacy. 

"In my opinion, it is the most difficult form of legal practice because it requires not only knowledge of the law, but a practical wisdom and an intuition for kairos," Hopkins said, noting that "kairos" is a Greek term referencing an opportune moment.

“The best trial lawyers can sense the kairos and will say the right thing, in the right way, at the right time," he added.

Hopkins is studying for the Arizona Bar Examination and, later this year, will take a position as an associate with Slutes, Sakrison & Rogers P.C. in Tucson.

Prior to beginning his graduate studies in law, Hopkins earned a bachelor's degree in management from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1995. He served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force and, later, started his own business.

After his years of service, Hopkins went on to complete post-baccalaureate coursework in linguistics and philosophy in 2003 through 2005 at the UA – a decision Hopkins said he'd made because he had opted to focus on engineering, leadership and military science over the humanities as an undergraduate.

As a law student, he has been involved with the Arizona Justice Project, is a past-president of the Black Law Students Association and also served last year as president of the Oral Advocacy Organization. He also was a member of the Business/Law Exchange, an Eller College of Management program that enables law students to act as mock legal counsel for entrepreneurship students.

"I think he has found something he loves to do and something that he is very good at," Mauet said. "And I think that has motivated him at law school. He knows what he wants to do and he's going out getting it done."