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University Relations Funds will be used to support school's seven competitive student teams

The University of Montana School of Law has received its largest outright gift ever - $750,000 - which will be used to support the school's seven competitive student teams. The gift was made by Billings attorney and 1974 UM law school graduate A. Clifford Edwards.

Edwards' gift, which creates the A. Clifford Edwards Advocacy Center Endowment, comes just weeks after UM's student moot court team won the national championship. Over the years, the law school's academic teams have consistently performed well in regional, national and even international competition.

Edwards' endowment will provide a steady stream of funding for travel, resource materials, competition registrations and other expenses associated with fielding the UM teams.

It also will support the school's Advanced Trial Advocacy course, which Edwards has helped teach on a volunteer basis since 1986, as well as fund annual guest lectures by distinguished judges and legal practitioners.

Earlier Edwards gifts made to the law school assisted the moot court team and helped modernize UM's Hoyt and Blewett Courtroom.

Edwards' recent gift was announced at a Friday luncheon, which also recognized law school volunteers and featured a presentation of the national-champion moot court team members: Taryn Stampfl Hart of Eureka, John Mudd of Missoula and Bobbi Frazer of Plains and Billings.

"We certainly appreciate Cliff Edwards' generous gift," law school Dean E. Edwin Eck said. "Thanks to Cliff and other Montanans who give time and financial resources, Montana's law school has been on the cutting edge of trial lawyer education for decades."

"Cliff Edwards and I strongly believe that a mix of theoretical and practical skills education is critical to prepare students for the practice of law," Eck said. "His gift ensures the future of that education at our law school."

Edwards received his undergraduate degree from Carroll College in Helena and is serving his second four-year term on its board of trustees.

The Montana Trial Lawyers Association named Edwards its Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1996. His Billings firm of Edwards, Tolstedt & Frickle specializes in representing Montanans in personal injury, product liability and denied-insurance benefits litigation.

Edwards serves on boards of several civic and professional organizations, including the Farmers State Bank in Denton, where he was born and raised. Edwards also owns and operates the Edwards Angus Ranch, which runs cattle in Fergus, Judith Basin and Petroleum counties.

Edwards and his late wife, Denise, have two sons who major in communication studies at UM. Chris is a junior, and John, a freshman, is a Grizzly football team quarterback.

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