University of Pittsburgh

Pitt Law Students Take Home Top Prize in Great Case Competition

Publish Date/Time: 
December 6, 2012

Two Pitt Law students finished ahead of 20 teams to win the Great Case competition, held Oct. 5 at the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. The event, which required graduate students to address a fictional case study involving fiduciary ethics, featured teams from the Katz School, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, and Penn State University. Christopher Manzi and David Mulock took home the top prize of $3,000.

“Mr. Manzi and I won, not so much because our solutions to the problem were best, but because we communicated with poise and resolve under the pressure of what can best be analogized to a ‘hot bench,’” said Mulock.

Mulock said the subject of fiduciary ethics is one he has always had a strong interest in.

“I believe our fiduciary duty is complex relative to, say, the medical profession,” he said. “They have a duty to their patient, simple. As attorneys we have a duty not only to our client, but also to the court, to the system, to justice.”

The Great Case is an annual ethics competition sponsored by the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership, the Greater Pittsburgh Compliance Roundtable, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. The competition, modeled loosely after the show The Amazing Race, sent teams on a race across Pitt’s campus to complete fast-paced challenges in the law school’s courtroom, Katz’s business school and Alumni Hall, where teams gave their final oral presentations. Judges included business leaders from UPMC, Three Rivers Partners, Pennsylvania Securities Commission, Allegheny Financial Group Ltd., and TriState Capital Bank.

“We went first of the final three teams and had no warning what we were going to face,” Mulock said. “I think our poise under pressure won us the competition.”

Manzi said the competition gave them a chance to feel the pressure of dealing with an SEC investigation and guiding a Board of Directors through a crisis management situation.

“The judges put us under a tremendous amount of stress in the final stage of the competition and challenged our every statement and recommendation,” Manzi said. “This type of stress in a controlled environment is one of the most powerful types of learning experiences.”

Manzi said the unique perspective of a Pitt Law education gave his team advantages going into the competition.

“The blending of business and law worked in our favor because we were able to apply principles of law school to the business problems and quickly identify the issues and begin analyzing them without hesitation,” he said.

According to a Berg Center press release, Professor Ray Jones of the Katz School wrote the competition’s mock case that described a decision facing three partners at the fictitious business Vidimo Finance. The partners were evaluating the possibility of offering a socially responsible investment product, something Vidimo had never done despite the growing presence of such funds throughout the financial services industry.

The top three places in the competition were all represented by teams from the University of Pittsburgh, with second and third place going to teams from the Katz School.

Mulock said faculty and resources at Pitt Law were helpful in preparing him and Manzi for the competition.

“We met with Professor Branson in anticipation of the competition,” Mulock said. “He was very helpful in broadening our understanding of the possible scope of the problem. Additionally Mr. Manzi and I participate on Pitt’s Mock Trial Team, which I believe prepared us in working well together and understanding our oral presentation strengths and skills.”

For more information about the Great Case competition, visit the Berg Center website, or contact the Berg Center at bergcenter@katz.pitt.edu or 412-648-2169.

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