By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Trey Lyons didn’t always intend to study law.
The Mooreville native has since found a knack for it.
Lyons, a second-year law student at the University of Mississippi, and a classmate recently teamed up to win a national title.
He and Eric Duke of Jackson won the family law Gabrielli National Moot Court Competition at Albany Law School in New York on March 2.
It was the second national moot court championship this year for the Ole Miss School of Law. The environmental law team also won its third title in four years at the Pace Environmental Law Moot Court Competition in White Plains, N.Y.
Lyons, 26, and Duke defeated the Seton Hall University School of Law in the final round. More than 20 schools participated, including those from Louisiana State University, Florida State University and Wake Forest University.
“The family law national championship demonstrates concretely the depth of talent we have at the law school – many students capable of top-flight advocacy,” Matthew Hall, senior associate dean for academic affairs and faculty adviser to the moot court board said in a university press release.
During the competition, students argue a fictional case that closely resembles a real one soon to be heard by the appellate courts. They are judged both on their written briefs and on their oral argument.
This case concerned whether the state could take children from families based on emotional harm, rather than physical harm. In other words, if a parent is regularly abusing his or her spouse but not the children, does that give the state grounds to take custody ex parte, or without representation or notification of the parents.
Lyons said they argued in favor of the state’s right to do so. He felt it was the weaker side but that it also gave the pair a greater opportunity to stretch themselves.
Lyons attended Mooreville schools from kindergarten through 10th grade before moving to Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science for his final two years of high school. He graduated in 2005. Four years later, he received degrees in physics and math from the University of Mississippi.
The original plan was to go to medical school, but his top-choice program allowed him to defer a year, and he opted to travel. In the meantime, he got a scholarship from Ole Miss that paid for graduate school, plus a stipend, and he eventually earned his masters in physics.
He also began to have second thoughts about his career path.
“I liked the idea of being a doctor more so than being a doctor,” he said.
The hard part, he said, was convincing his parents who “would rather me have dug a ditch than be an attorney.” He emphasized that he didn’t want to “be an ambulance chaser” but was drawn to fields like intellectual property and patents.
“I’m more interested in the technical, logical part of the law,” he said.
Eventually, he wants to return to the area and do legal work related to real estate, wills and estates.
“I want to raise my kids in Mississippi, and I love Tupelo and Mooreville,” he said.
Lyons, who now lives in Oxford full time, is back in Mooreville this week for spring break to visit family and work at Tupelo Consignment Music, where he has worked since he was a teen.
He said one of the greatest benefits of his recent championship was the lessons he learned about the importance of demeanor in both oral arguments and written ones. Often, appellate cases are narrowly decided, he said, and being too flamboyant can be a hindrance.
“The way I would have approached something like this a year ago and now is 1,000 percent different,” he said. “My natural disposition to approach something like this is to be a bulldog. I just want to win.
“Often the best way you can win is by a very narrow margin.”