When Chapman University Fowler School of Law students Piper Brockley (JD ’23) and Kyla Nguyen (JD ’23) made their final arguments in the annual Rutan & Tucker Golden Gavel Competition, they did so in a very different setting than their predecessors—due to the pandemic, this year’s public exhibition round was being held virtually via Zoom.

But that didn’t diminish the strength of their arguments. Brockley (representing the defendant) and Nguyen (representing the plaintiff) demonstrated polished professionalism before a panel of guest judges: Judge Karen E. Scott, Central District of California; Associate Justice Lamar W. Baker, California Court of Appeal; and Meredith Williams, a partner at the competition’s sponsoring firm, Rutan & Tucker, LLP.

Kyla Nguyen and Piper Brockley

Kyla Nguyen and Piper Brockley, both JD class of 2023, were the 2021 Rutan & Tucker Golden Gavel Competition winners.

During the annual competition, the entire first-year class engaged in oral arguments based on briefs written all semester as part of their Legal Research and Writing class. After every student participated, 32 students qualified to advance to the quarterfinal rounds (16 plaintiff advocates and 16 defendant advocates) and eight students qualified to advance to the semi-final rounds: Ujala Batool, Tyler Makin, Kaidyn McClure and Kyla Nguyen for the plaintiff, and Piper Brockley, Hunter Leppard, Madeline Ong, and Zachary Princi for the defendant.

On Friday, after one semi-final round, the field was narrowed to four students—Brockley, McClure, Nguyen and Princi. They were all outstanding, making the judges’ jobs very difficult, but ultimately, Brockley and Nguyen were named the Golden Gavel winners, moving on to the final exhibition round on Monday.

Williams praised Brockley and Nguyen’s performance during the exhibition, telling the finalists that they “both did a really great job standing your ground against questions, especially when we pushed you on the facts or the laws. You’d come back and respectfully and clearly state your position.”

Justice Baker had similar feedback for the future attorneys following their final rebuttals. “You’re both very prepared,” he told Brockley and Nguyen. “That’s something you always want from lawyers appearing in court.”

Orange County-based Rutan & Tucker has a long history of investment in the mission of Chapman University and the Fowler School of Law. Several Chapman alumni are employed by the firm, including partners Jennifer Farrell, Brandon Sylvia, and Kenneth Zielinski. Rutan & Tucker’s sponsorship of the Golden Gavel competition includes $500 scholarships for each of the finalists.

“I’d like to thank Rutan & Tucker for continuing its partnership and sponsorship of the Rutan & Tucker Golden Gavel competition,” said Fowler School of Law Dean Matt Parlow. “Not only is it an exceptional law firm, but it’s been a long-term partner with the Fowler School of Law, and we’re grateful to Meredith Williams and all the partners, attorneys, and colleagues at Rutan & Tucker for sponsoring and supporting this signature event.”