Law Day Revisited

High School Moot Court Partners, Now A Lawyer And A Doctor, Reflect On Law Day’s Lasting Impact

Kisby Paschall Law Day Moot Court Winners 2006

Upon hearing the runners-up called, Laura Paschall, left, and Alyssa Kisby realize that they have won the 2006 Moot Court competition.

They sat anxiously in the courtroom of the Justice Building, springing to their feet as the clerk banged her gavel and proclaimed “oyez, oyez, oyez.” Their eyes widened as Chief Justice Sarah Parker and Justice Mark D. Martin of the Supreme Court and Judges Douglas McCullough and Robin Hudson of the Court of Appeals emerged in their black robes and took their seats.

They looked like a couple of teenagers, barely old enough to drive, as they waited to argue their case.

They were.

Alyssa Kisby-MeadowsAlyssa Kisby (now Kisby-Meadows, left), who had never even been to the state capital, and Laura Paschall were appearing in the finals of the 2006 Moot Court Competition, an event coordinated by the Young Lawyers Division in conjunction with the North Carolina Bar Association and North Carolina Bar Foundation’s annual observance of Law Day. Kisby-Meadows was a junior and Paschall was a sophomore.

Aside from stomping her foot (Kisby-Meadows) and grasping the lectern (Paschall), the western champions from Highland School of Technology in Gastonia came across as a pair of seasoned pros. Their names were called early that afternoon as champions, a feat they repeated a year later when Kisby-Meadows was a senior and Paschall was a junior.

Their story is not necessarily unusual, in that many of their predecessors and successors have also gone on to successful careers following their participation in Law Day competition. Chief Judge Donna Stroud of the N.C. Court of Appeals even has a plaque hanging in her office commemorating her achievement as the winner of the event’s first essay contest in 1982.

Alyssa Kisby-Meadows and family

Alyssa Kisby-Meadows, husband Gary and their children

Kisby-Meadows went on to become a lawyer and has been practicing in Gastonia since 2014, at first with Mullen Holland & Cooper and now with Heritage Law. She is a graduate of Duke University and the University of North Carolina School of Law, married and the mother of two. And a member of the North Carolina Bar Association.

Paschall (left, with her husband, Brad) is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC School of Medicine, and presently completing her second year as a resident in the psychiatry program at Atrium Health in Charlotte. Although her mom, Nancy Paschall, is an attorney and longtime NCBA member, Laura set her sights on the medical field at an early age.

Paschall and Kisby-Meadows scarcely knew each other when they were first paired together in 2005.

“A friend wanted to participate in Moot Court in 2005,” Kisby-Meadows recalled. “It was the first year our school was going to participate in Moot Court, and she talked me into attending the interest meeting. I learned about what would be involved and thought, ‘Why not, this would be something fun to do.’ I was paired with Laura Paschall that year.

Laura Paschall

Graduation Day for Laura Paschall, standing beside her mom, attorney Nancy Paschall.

“Neither of us had participated before, so it was a real learning experience for us. Not just seeing how the court system works but also reading the cases and understanding how to interpret the law, apply the law, and inform the argument. It was completely different from anything we had done previously in high school. It was a fun experience getting to branch out into something different than the norm.”

The future two-time state champions ran into stiff competition from the outset.

“The first year we had great county involvement,” Kisby-Meadows said. “Almost every high school had a team involved in the Gaston County competition. Most high schools had two teams, including Highland.

“We made it through the first level at our county competition, but then Judge Caldwell’s daughter was one half of the next team we were to compete against. Needless to say, that year we didn’t make it any further than county.”

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell III, she added, later helped their coaches prepare them for regional and state competition, when they were coached by teacher Patty Poston and Gastonia attorney Jason Shoemaker.

“They spent a lot of time with us,” Paschall recalled. “I really appreciated it in high school, but I have a different level of appreciation for it now that I am out in the working world. What a sacrifice it was for them to give us all of those hours.”

Their commitment, and the competition itself, also made a lasting impression on Paschall.

“I think it had a profound impact on my education,” Paschall said. “It also had a deep impact on my self-esteem and my ability to approach situations from different angles and to explore both sides of a debate or question. It also helped me to develop my critical thinking skills and my confidence.

“When we first started, my voice would shake. I would get up there and grip that podium in a death grip. Then by that second year I did not have that problem. It helped me develop that stillness that you need when you are speaking in front of others – it has taken me really far, and has helped in my interaction with patients in the psychiatry unit, when things get really tense, and I need to center myself and stay calm.”



For Kisby-Meadows, the experience she gained from moot court competition continues to make an impact on her law practice.

“One of the most used skills I learned from my time in moot court,” Kisby-Meadows said, “was that our coaches used to teach us that you always want to be thinking two steps ahead and plan in your mind how to defend every hole that could appear in your argument or in your legal research.

“When the judge asks a question, I pause and say, ‘I am glad that you asked that,’ or ‘Thank you for asking that, your honor,’ and then launch into the rebuttal. I have actually used that in court, and I have noticed the judge has a look on their face that says, ‘OK, you actually listened to my question and you’re going to give me a relevant answer and you’re not going to dodge my question.’ That really was a lasting lesson that came from moot court.”

The lesson, she added, extends beyond learning how to interact with the bench to learning how to interact with other attorneys.

“I think that my time in moot court gave me more of an understanding of that aspect of the practice of law than even my time in law school,” Kisby-Meadows said. “Even though my practice now isn’t heavy in litigation, I think those lessons still translate. There are plenty of situations in estate planning and estate administration where situations become contentious, so just understanding how to diffuse the situation and understanding how things may go if it gets to the point of litigation is really beneficial.”

Kisby-Meadows says moot court did have a huge impact on her litigation practice.

“Even though I was a new attorney coming in, I felt like I had a lot of comfort and familiarity with the courts,” Kisby-Meadows said. “In a perfect world you would learn everything in law school – you can take trial ad, you can do clinic, and that might be your only exposure to courtrooms and actually giving a true oral argument. I felt like moot court gave me the benefit of being able to go into the courtroom right away and understand how to structure the argument, how to present everything in a way that the bench would understand it and be the most beneficial.

“It taught you the right way to advocate as well. You want to be passionate for your client, but you also want to understand how to temper it and pull back on the emotions a little bit while making sure that the best legal argument comes through.”

Kisby and Paschall with Parker

Laura, left, and Alyssa accept championship trophies in 2006 from Chief Justice Sarah Parker.

Beyond the practical experience, the 2006 and 2007 moot court champions gained and share lasting memories from a special time in their lives.

“It was definitely one of the highlights of high school for me,” Paschall said. “I loved it. And it was fun – spending hours talking through the cases, figuring out strategies. I have very fond memories of moot court, and participating in Law Day, in and of itself, was a very motivating thing for me.

“The chief justice was Sarah Parker. I remember she listened to our arguments, and then we got to go up and shake their hands. I remember her shaking my hand and looking me in the eye and telling me that ‘you are going to go far if you put your mind to it.’

“Seeing a woman in that position reaching out to me, giving me that type of encouragement, it is a moment that you keep in the back of your mind and draw from when you start to doubt yourself.”

Those moments of doubt should be rare for Laura Paschall and Alyssa Kisby-Meadows, who demonstrated long ago that they have what it takes to make a difference in this world.

And they will.

<  Previous article  —  Next article  >  |  MAY 2021 ISSUE PAGE