Mock Trial Team


Academic spotlight: Pre-Law Program

Spring 2024

By Aili Whalen
Do you need the thinking, writing and speaking skills to practice law? Three grads, a faculty member and a student testify for Bellarmine’s Pre-Law Program.

The panel

John E. Selent ’77, History major. JD, Notre Dame Law School. Partner, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP.  
Craig C. Dilger ’91, Business and Economics major. JD, Northern Kentucky University College of Law. Member, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC.
Judge Christine Ward ’91, English major. JD, University of Kentucky College of Law. Chief Judge of Family Court, Jefferson County Circuit Court. 
Kelzé Riley ’21, Political Science major. 2024 JD candidate, University of Cincinnati College of Law. Student Bar Association president; Student Legal Education Committee representative;  editor-in-chief, Immigration and Human Rights Law Review. Incoming Labor and Employment associate at Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL. 
David C. Scott, JD, Ph.D., assistant professor of Philosophy and director of Bellarmine’s Pre-Law program. JD, Harvard Law School; Ph.D. in Philosophy, University of Kentucky.
Norah Wulkopf ’25, Political Science and Communication major, Philosophy and Refugee and Forced Migration Studies minors. President of the Bellarmine Mock Trial team.

What are you doing now?


Kelzé Riley: I will be finishing law school this year and starting legal practice as a labor and employment attorney in a law firm after that. 
John Selent: I am a partner at the law firm of Dinsmore & Shohl and have been for 27 years.  I have practiced public utility and banking regulatory law since I graduated from Notre Dame law school 44 years ago.  
Christine Ward: I have been a judge since 2015. I’m in the second term of an elected position. There are 10 Family Court Judges serving Jefferson County. One judge presides over all the legal matters affecting the same family. A Family Court Judge may preside over litigation seeking a domestic violence protective order; a divorce and/or child custody and support; establishment of paternity and child support; adoption; and termination of parental rights. We also handle matters of child dependency, neglect or abuse and family recovery court for parents affected by substance-use disorders.
Craig Dilger: I am a trial lawyer at a law firm where I am an equity member and receive a share of the firm’s profits. My practice now is in health care, athletics and “bet-the-company” litigation. Before this, I spent eight years in law enforcement as a prosecutor. 

How did Bellarmine prepare you for law school and legal practice?


Kelzé Riley: I would not be where I am today without the support of Bellarmine’s faculty and staff. I’m now at a public university, and there is way more love and care for students at Bellarmine. I was a first-generation college student who came to Bellarmine after Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, Ohio. Bellarmine prepared me well for law school, particularly the small class sizes and my interactions with teachers. Dr. Lee Remington, one of my political science professors who has a JD as well as a Ph.D., was very intentional in helping me. She talked to me outside of class and pointed me in the right direction when I was applying to law schools. She was also a role model for me, since, like me, she is passionate about civil rights. When she was in law school at the University of Louisville, Dr. Remington got the Alberta Jones case reopened. Alberta Jones was one of the first black women in Kentucky to pass the bar exam, in 1959. She was active in civil rights, and in 1965 she was murdered, her body found in the Ohio River. I am one of the students who received the Alberta O. Jones Scholarship (in 2021), and it helped to jump-start my law school career. 
John Selent: Bellarmine taught me to think and write clearly. The faculty insisted that we express ourselves clearly in writing, as clear writing reflects clear thinking. In the legal profession, both are imperative. Moreover, a liberal arts education at Bellarmine is life accelerated. A Bellarmine education exposes you, albeit mostly vicariously, to practically every situation you will encounter in life, and how the great minds of previous generations responded. These include both the personal, such as addressing your own mortality and that of others, and the professional. For example, from a professional perspective, my Bellarmine economics professors would say that the regulation of monopolists is required to impose the rigors of competition to the benefit of both the monopolists and the customers that they serve.  
Christine Ward: I became a lawyer because I got involved in the Bellarmine Mock Trial program. The team was so much fun. Jim and Ruth Wagoner, who ran Mock Trial at the time, invested so much in their students. I wouldn’t have considered law as a profession but for them; I have no lawyers in the family and am a first-generation college graduate. Dr. Gail Henson was also a significant influence on my life. Like so many of my professors, she gave me the tools I needed to be confident in my abilities. At Bellarmine, the professors personally invest in you. The school is designed to make you think for yourself, for the world, and to make a difference. It’s a holistic approach to education. 
Craig Dilger: Bellarmine helped me to find the path I needed to be on. I don’t think that happens at other schools. Law’s been great for me. The years when I wanted to be in trial every other month, I was. I didn’t always want to be a trial lawyer. There were no lawyers in my family, and my parents owned businesses. I started off at Bellarmine as a soccer player. Then an injury forced me to quit. I wasn’t sure that I was going to stay at Bellarmine, but I was taking a Communication class with Ruth Wagoner. After hearing me during a public speaking component, she asked me to stay after class. She then talked me into Mock Trial. I loved it and started competing for that team. It’s incredibly important to have that broad spectrum and foundation of things you should know about that Bellarmine’s liberal arts education provides. How are you going to be a person who resides in our world when you only know one thing? 

What advice would you give someone considering law school?


Kelzé Riley: It’s tough to show up every day. What keeps me going is that people believe in me. Relying on others is the best way.
John Selent: I would suggest evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. At Bellarmine, play to your strengths and address your weaknesses. Admission to law school will require a strong academic record, and so this is imperative. I would also suggest that you learn as much as possible about everything. In my experience in corporate law practice, there is little, if anything, that I have learned that has not proved useful in representing the firm’s clients. I would suggest being prepared to work hard and to enjoy life. At Bellarmine, at law school and thereafter, be careful not to miss the forest for the trees. All work and no play makes for a sad life and, I would say, both an unsuccessful life and career. Finally, I would strongly suggest it is imperative to take an LSAT preparation course either at Bellarmine or otherwise to increase prospects for admission to law school and financial aid.
Christine Ward: I would suggest taking courses that teach you to write. Being a double major in English and Communication honed my writing skills and developed my confidence. Lawyers must be able to make clear written arguments, and judges must be able to write clear, concise orders.  
Craig Dilger: Law is not just for people who do well in traditional classrooms. Something a lot of people don’t know about me is that I have fairly significant learning disabilities. I was the first person in the state of Kentucky to get extra time on law exams and the very first person in Kentucky to take the bar exam under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I passed it the first time. It helps if you have an assertive personality because to be a lawyer you have to stand your ground. You need to know the idea you have is a good one and has promise before you can communicate that to others. Mock Trial can help with this.
David Scott: First, I think it’s helpful to talk to as many law school graduates as you can in deciding on your path. There are so many more options out there than the traditional courtroom setting. As someone who didn’t grow up around any lawyers, direct contact with attorneys was the only way I was able to figure any of that out. Second, you should make sure that you take courses that both challenge you and hone the skills that will be at the core of your law school experience, such as reading and analyzing difficult texts, developing creative solutions to difficult political, legal, and moral problems, and being able to thoroughly explain your position orally and in writing. There are many courses that help you with one or more of these, so consulting with your prelaw advisors in crafting your course plan is advisable. Third, if you do decide law school is probably for you, I would begin developing a plan for studying for the LSAT before the beginning of your junior year. Though there are many components of your law school applications, developing and sticking to an LSAT study plan requires the most planning and has the greatest potential benefit for your law school admissions results. Treat the LSAT like one of your most important classes: A higher score can open doors and secure scholarships like almost nothing else in your prelaw preparation can.  

What is Pre-Law at Bellarmine like today?

David Scott: I think the most important parts of our Pre-Law Program, true to the mission of Bellarmine, are the one-on-one advising and ongoing relationships our students develop with pre-law faculty who are law school graduates themselves and our extensive network of lawyer alumni. I typically try to bring a diverse set of Bellarmine alumni and law school representatives to campus as often as I can so that students can feel more confident that competitive law schools and exciting careers are not a world apart, but very much attainable to them. Very often our prelaw students also join the Prelaw Society, a student-run organization that organizes some great events and helps prelaw students across majors develop a strong sense of community with one another. Our prelaw internship program allows students to receive 3 hours credit for 90 contact hours with local or regional employers in an area of law that interests them. And recently we started an in-house LSAT course that I teach that is funded in part by Bellarmine donors so that we can offer it at a fraction of the cost of private LSAT courses.
Norah Wulkopf: I’m the president of the Mock Trial team, which is hard work but a lot of fun. There’s no better feeling in a trial than sitting at counsel table and watching your best friend grilling a witness on cross examination when the witness says something they’re not allowed to say. Your friend comes back to impeach them and you’ve already got the affidavit pulled up and are showing them the exact line they need to finish the job. The University of Louisville has no mock trial team for undergrads. We also have an amazing coach, Shamir Patel, who has 15 years of experience with Mock Trial. At the University of Kentucky they are entirely student-run. I take a lot of Pre-Law classes because I want to do immigration or special victims prosecution someday. I take a poli-sci class on international legal issues, for example, and an Honors interdisciplinary course called the Law of the Land about legal issues that arise in conflicts over land. I also have an internship with the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, where I help out the Special Victims Unit by interviewing victims of misdemeanor and felony domestic violence.

Are there majors that are better than others for law school?

David Scott: In theory, you can major in anything and go to law school. These majors include Criminal Justice, Political Science, Philosophy, English, History and Economics. The Pre-Law Program also has a list of relevant courses. We have law school-educated faculty teaching across disciplines. The sets of skills taught in the courses above assist in excellence in law school, in part because there won’t be time once you get there to work on those skills. These include the ability to analyze arguments of others and make rigorous arguments of your own, reading comprehension, some understanding of law-making processes and related institutions, time-management skills, and the ability to think about societal complex problems and develop creative solutions. 
For information on Bellarmine’s Pre-Law program, contact David Scott at <a></a> .

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