UF Law student wins $65K argument

  • Steven Hermosa delivering his winning oral argument.

With a six-figure payout, a performance by Snoop Dogg and a rooftop party in Brooklyn, the Philip R. Shawe Scholarship Competition is not your typical law school moot court competition.

When the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the forced sale of his company, Philip Shawe, the co-CEO of TransPerfect, went looking for fresh legal advice. But instead of turning to his lawyers, he created a one-time scholarship to attract legal briefs from second- and third-year law students.

The scholarship awarded $115,000 in prize money to the three law school students who prepared the best arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court for reversing the sale of his $500 million company.

Arguing that there is no public interest in the forced sale of a profitable business, unlike private property seized under eminent domain, Steven Hermosa, a 2017 graduate of University of Florida Levin College of Law, took first place and a $65,000 cash prize.

“It was an unforgettable experience,” Hermosa said. “What more could you ask for than the opportunity to argue a real-world case in front of a panel of judges and future peers.”

Hermosa learned of the scholarship through an advertisement online. When he saw the scholarship amount, he double-checked to make sure it was not a mistake. However, the scholarship was not the only reason Hermosa submitted a brief to the competition. He was equally interested in potentially influencing a real-world issue.

Shawe founded TransPerfect, the world’s largest privately held provider of language and technology solutions, with his one-time fiancé Liz Elting in 1992. After suing each other for malfeasance and mismanagement in 2014, Elting wanted to sell her stake in the company, but the two cofounders could not agree on a price. Delaware Chancellor Andre Bouchard ordered that the business be sold. Shawe created the scholarship following a Delaware Supreme Court decision affirming the forced sale of TransPerfect. 

Close to 240 students submitted briefs for the competition and three finalists were invited to present 20-minute oral arguments in front of a panel of judges at a charity gala in New York.  

“You not only answered the questions, but you used the questions to further your argument,” Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law Professor and competition judge, said to Hermosa. “By the end of your answers, you were not in the same position you were in before the question was asked, you were in a better position, and that to me is the key to extraordinarily effective oral argument.” 

Alison Tilden and McKay Neumeuster of Yale Law School and Catherine Dowie of Suffolk University School of Law tied in second place, each team taking home $25,000.

After the banquet, the contestants and the other 300 or so attendees retired to the rooftop of the hotel to celebrate, Crain’s New York Business reported. Around midnight, the rapper Snoop Dogg made a surprise appearance and performed until 1:30 a.m.

Hermosa described the whole experience as “bizarre” but said the competition “was great practical experience.” 

After taking a small vacation with his wife, Hermosa plans to use the scholarship award to help pay his student loans. He recently took the July 2017 Florida Bar Exam and will join a litigation firm in Orlando, Fla. this fall.

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