Bricker named to Noel M. Ferris Advocacy Professorship

The practice of law is called just that because it requires constant vigilance, reflection, and yes plenty of practice.

At University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, future trial lawyers start this lifelong quest through the school’s nationally recognizedaward-winning trial advocacy program. In basic and advanced courses, students begin the acquisition of the skills needed to thrive in the courtroom throughout their careers – the skills essential to providing the best possible representation of their clients’ interests.

Legal educator Cary Bricker, McGeorge’s Mock Trial Program Director and Co-director of the school’s Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, was recently named the Noël M. Ferris Professor of Trial Skills. The endowment was created by McGeorge alumnus Parker White ’80 to honor his wife, McGeorge alumna and former Regent Noël M. Ferris ’79, following her death in May 2017. White and Ferris were both stars of the Mock Trial Team when at McGeorge. The current gift continues a tradition they began jointly when they established the five-year Ferris-White Advocacy Prize, awarded to the year’s top student in trial advocacy courses and activities.

“Noël Ferris was an extraordinary woman — an inspiration to students and practicing attorneys alike,” Bricker said. “She distinguished herself as a brilliant trial lawyer and leader in the world of advocacy, making clear that a major priority for her was to encourage young women entering the field to be ethical, professional, accomplished trial lawyers. It is a great privilege to carry her name forward through this professorship.”

Ferris and Bricker worked together in The Anthony Kennedy Inn of Court and McGeorge’s mock trial competition program. They also worked to develop the guidelines for the Ferris-White Prize.

“My most memorable interaction with Noel came when she was preparing her speech as second woman dean and incoming president of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, entitled "Watershed Moments: Catalyst for Advocacy,” Bricker said. “She invited me to hear her practice the speech and offer suggestions. What an honor it was to be asked to play this role and hear what was later pronounced by the academy members as the best dean’s speech in memory.”

”Noel used vivid examples of ‘watershed moments’ to inspire attorneys to create a better world through focused and passionate advocacy. In doing so, she embodied the reasons she, and we all, take such pride in our profession,” Bricker said of Ferris. “I re-watched the speech recently on tape and resolved to play it as the keynote at the beginning of my trial advocacy courses.”

Bricker said being named the Noël M. Ferris Professor of Trial Skills gives her a renewed sense of purpose to teach in a way that would make Ferris proud. “One of my chief goals is to fulfill as best I can my position as a role model for women future trial attorneys,” she said.

Bricker is already a role model in many ways. She began her legal career as a staff attorney in the criminal division of the New York Legal Aid Society and then as a senior staff attorney in the Federal Defender Division of the Legal Aid Society She was an associate professor and directory of trial advocacy for three years at Temple Law School before coming to McGeorge in 2005.

In August 2013, Bricker was one of 26 legal educators in the United States honored in “What the Best Law Teachers Do,” a four-year study of what makes a great law professor authored by Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz, Professor Gerry Hess, and Professor Sophie Sparrow  She was identified as an extraordinary law teacher whose students achieve exceptional learning.

Bricker was named McGeorge’s Professor of the Year in her first year at the law school in 2005-06, then again in 2011-12 and 2017-18, and received the 2015 Outstanding Student Organization Advisor Award. In May 2015, Bricker and McGeorge Criminal Law Society received the Faith Davies All-University Leadership Award, the university’s prestigious honor recognizing Bricker’s devotion to her students and the wider university community.

As Co-Chair of the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, Professor Bricker co-created a number of innovative courses: the year-long Federal Defender Clinic, the “Art of Plea Bargaining” with Mock Trial coach and alumnus Keith Hill, and Mock Trial Evidence with her colleague and husband Jay Leach.

Her legal teaching has stretched far beyond Sacramento. In Chile, she taught Public Defenders the art of client interviewing, counseling, and plea negotiations. For almost a decade, she lectured on advocacy and evidence at law schools in China, then in the U.S.-Russia Foundation’s Legal Education Exchange presenting at international conferences, creating curricula for Russian law schools, and training Russian professors in the use of experiential learning in law teaching.  In 2019, she trained Japanese professors and attorneys how to teach client counseling in a learning-by-doing symposium in Tokyo. For the last 25 years, Professor Bricker has also taught deposition and trial skills to thousands of attorneys regionally and nationally for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and an international program for barristers and solicitors in Belfast. This summer she completed her fourth stint as Program Director for NITA’s training program for the Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC), teaching hundreds of legal-aid attorneys how to navigate successfully the deposition and trial arenas. 

Prof. Bricker’s scholarship is focused on comparative criminal law and criminal law teaching as they affect the accused, including, for example, “Revisiting the Crime-Fraud Exception to the Attorney-Client Privilege: A Proposal to Remedy the Disparity in Protections for Civil and Criminal Privilege Holders,”82 Temp. L. Rev. 149 (2009) and “Teaching the Power of Empathy in Domestic and Transnational Experiential Public Defender Courses” 32 Buff. Envt’l L.J. 1 (2013). Her current writing project focuses on the powerful and timely role progressive prosecutors can play in effecting criminal justice reform, with a specific focus on California’s new felony murder statute.

As Mock Trial Competition Director, Bricker, along with alumni coaches, keeps alive Noel Ferris’s passion for trial practice and mock trial training by guiding the law school’s competition teams to an impressive history of victories. This past year Simone Leighty ’20 won the 2020 Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition; two McGeorge teams won the regional competition to qualify for the finals of the National Trial Competition; and McGeorge’s team won the Best Brief Award in the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge. McGeorge tied for seventh in the nation for the American Bar Association Competition Championship and ninth in the country in Trial Advocacy by U.S. News and World Report.