Six University of New Hampshire School of Law students recently spent a weekend in a place their classmates will never encounter during a law lecture or legal residency — a court where it’s absolutely OK to let them see you sweat.
Not just OK. Inevitable.
The aspiring attorneys — Robert Grann, Miles Davis, Andrew Schmid, Jack Hepburn, Shawn Hrbek and Nicholas Danforth — took to the basketball court to represent UNH Law at the 41st annual Western New England University School of Law Basketball Invitational in Springfield, Mass., Feb. 19 – 21.
That the tournament has existed for more than four decades speaks to its continued vitality. This year, squads came from as far away as North Carolina (Duke), New Jersey (Rutgers) and western New York (Syracuse).
Players that make the annual trek look forward to a fun three-day break from the demanding law school grind of poring over cases and penning legal briefs.
“Playing in a tournament like this is great because it gives you a complete mental break from the law.”
“One of the difficult things about law school is that, in one way or another, academics are always on your mind,” says Hepburn, a first-year student at UNH Law. “That can get really stressful, as it essentially amounts to a 24/7 commitment. Playing in a tournament like this is great because it gives you a complete mental break from the law.”
Outside of interactions with the men and women in striped shirts, that is. Referees issued a handful of technical fouls during the weekend, with Davis earning a pair himself.
Disputes were by far the exception, though; camaraderie ruled the weekend. Many of the schools in attendance have entered the tournament for several seasons, so players recognize each other and reminisce about tourneys gone by.
UNH Law has participated each of the last three years, coached by law professor Michael McCann.
“It’s become a tradition … everyone looks forward to it, and we plan to continue attending, both alumni and students,” says Grann. “It’s definitely a great break away from the standard routine. We’ve played some of the same teams multiple times in my years coming to the tournament, so it’s nice to see familiar faces and get a chance to hang out with students from other schools.”
McCann says the tournament serves as a fun bonding experience and a terrific opportunity for students, faculty and staff to get to know each other better. “It’s also good for our students to work together and experience first-hand the value of teamwork; being able to work well together is an essential skill for attorneys.”
The team roster changes from year to year, and finding players can be challenging given the academic workload of law students. Typically, team veterans recruit new players. This year’s team played pick-up games in the weeks leading up to the tournament to get some practice before going in to the competition.
UNH Law went 2-2 in the tourney, with wins over Syracuse and Vermont Law and losses to Albany alumni and host Western New England. It wasn’t enough to earn a playoff berth, but Schmid says the team had some exciting moments, including rallying back from 19-point deficit during one game, and staging a convincing win over Vermont Law in the final game of the weekend. In that game, “It seemed like everything really started to click,” Hepburn says.
“I’m very impressed with the way our players play, McCann says. “They play smart and tough and they’re passionate. They make the UNH Law community proud.