In his complementary roles as advisor to the Suffolk Law Moot Court Program and faculty advisor to the constitutional law moot court competition teams, Professor Richard Pizzano spends many hours each year mentoring a talented, driven group of Suffolk Law students. And each year, under his tutelage, these students shine, showcasing the intellect and dedication that exemplifies the best Suffolk Law has to offer.
"He's very flexible," says Michael Forte, a fourth-year JD/MBA student. "Rather than remake a person completely, he takes skills that you already have developed and tries to refine them, take some of the corners off."
Forte knows firsthand the benefits of this approach: in 2006 he was part of Pizzano's constitutional law team, which beat out more than 30 other teams from across the country to win the J. Braxton Craven Competition at the University of North Carolina. Last year, coached by Pizzano again, Forte was named the outstanding oral advocate at the American Constitution Society's Constance Baker Motley National Moot Court Competition.
Where do Pizzano's mentoring skills come from? The most likely answer is that it takes one to know one.
Pizzano's association with the moot court teams stretches back to his own days as a student. Both he and his wife Joan attended Suffolk as undergraduates and received their JDs from Suffolk Law.
Pizzano is proud to say that he was on the first moot court board at Suffolk Law. "My class was the first year we did any kind of appellate presentations," he says. When Pizzano graduated, Suffolk Law immediately snapped up the standout student, hiring him to teach courses in agency, civil procedure, and corporations. Shortly thereafter, then-moot court advisor Associate Dean John Fenton Jr. received an appointment as a judge, and Pizzano took over the program's reins. "I've been the advisor ever since," he says.
As the moot court program has grown in both scale and accomplishment, Pizzano's responsibilities have kept pace. Today he advises the Moot Court Board, the student group that publishes the Suffolk Journal of Trial & Appellate Advocacy and that organizes four internal competitions, including the McLaughlin and Clark competitions; he also oversees all the trial and appellate teams that travel to competitions around the country. For those teams, Pizzano prepares the budgets and decides which competitions to enter.
Pizzano also keeps his hand in the game as the coach for the constitutional law teams, meeting with participating students every day for a month or more before a competition. Add in his teaching schedule, and you have a hard measure of his devotion to Suffolk Law's students.
"I love working with the students. I love the up-close, personal aspect of what I do, whether it's the students I coach or the students I advise on the Moot Court Board," he says.
According to Forte, the level of advocacy at the interscholastic competitions is so high that many competitions are decided by fractions of points-and that's where the dedication of an experienced coach like Pizzano pays off. "Those little things that you work on with the faculty advisor during practice rounds really can make a difference between-in the most drastic sense-winning and losing," Forte says. "But overall the competition is less about winning and losing at this level. It's more about retaining and improving on the skills that you're going to need when you go out into the real world."
Pizzano agrees on all counts. "We don't always come home with the top prizes," he says, :but we're out there, the Suffolk Law name is out there, and people are impressed with what they see."
- BY THOMAS GEARTY
ALUMNI PROFILESPaul Cherecwich Jr.