A passion for persuasion

By Rachel Bjornestad
On March 17, 2014

Shawnequa ‘Nikki’ Clark was a shy sophomore walking along the halls of the Student Union at an organization fair in 2011 casually browsing the different booths when a friend convinced her to attend an informational Moot Court meeting.

“It was by accident, actually,” she said. “I don’t know what I expected.”

Three years later, the once timid student is now a prominent persuader with a reputation for success, and a dream of law school turning into a reality.

Now a senior history major, Clark’s experience with Moot Court has helped her succeed but it was a bit different from her original plan.

She originally came to A-State because she wanted to go to school close to her hometown of Blytheville.

“I was actually interested in the band here,” she said.

She has played the clarinet since the fifth grade and couldn’t imagine not playing in college.

Her vision changed, however, when she discovered Moot Court her sophomore year, despite not knowing much about it.

“He said it had to do with law, and I knew I wanted to go to law school,” she said.

Clark has wanted to be a lawyer since she was in fifth grade and her job shadowing experience in high school further cemented her desire.

 “I just knew it had something to do with law school, and it was one step further to my goal.”

Like any new activity, it was a learning process.  
“At first it was a little rocky because I had never had any public speaking or anything before that,” she recalls. “But I went to my first competition a few weeks later and I was hooked.”

And Moot Court seems to be hooked on her. Just this year, she has won multiple accolades around the country.

Her awards include second place at the regional competition with a fourth place speaker award and breaking into the top 40 teams at the national competition.

At her most recent tournament, she and her partner won the competition, and she was ranked 10th speaker overall.

Her hard work has paid off in more than just awards. Clark was accepted to three law schools so far, including the University of Missouri, her current top choice.

 “I fell in love with Missou,” she said. Clark first came to the campus as part of a visit with the Pre-Law Club. “It was very welcoming, and they’re always in contact with you throughout the process of applying and everything.”

Looking back to freshman year, Clark notices how much she has grown.

 “I didn’t do anything freshman year at all, and I didn’t talk in classes or anything.” Clark said. “I never expected to be captain, I never expected to win a speaker award. It’s such a drastic change from then to now.”

On the Moot Court experience as a whole, Clark said she doesn’t think people understand just how much it can help a person. Hans Hacker, the Moot Court Team coach, said he never thought Clark would be one of the finest appellate advocates in the nation on the undergraduate Moot Court circuit.

“She seemed to me to be too shy,” he explained. “But I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.”

Clark also said she couldn’t have achieved her success without support.

“When I first joined, after a while I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m good enough to do this,’” she said.

However, Hacker thought otherwise.

“I was talking to him one day and he was like ‘you’re good, I believe in you.’ And I stuck with it, and I’m so glad I did.,” Clark said.

“She wanted to quit, but I just couldn’t allow that,” Hacker said. “She was just too good.”

He was right. Last year, Hacker said Clark really took off. He regards her as one of the best team members he has had.

This year, she’s active in her classes, and has been asked to speak at different events on campus.

“It’s because of the public speaking skills I’ve learned in Moot Court,” she said. “If you have even a thought of going to law school, you should do moot court. It helps with public speaking, it helps you in other classes, you can build a reputation around campus with different professors. It’s just a wonderful experience.”

While Hacker is proud of his successful student, he will greatly miss the talent she brought to the team.

“Right now, I’m just contemplating what life after Nikki Clark is going to be like,” Hacker joked. “I don’t know how I’m going to fill those shoes.”

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