A law student at the National University of Lesotho, Phelane Phomane faced formidable odds to reach this year’s global rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C. At his resource-starved law school, there’s even a shortage of library tables — let alone funds for student travel overseas. But Phomane and his teammates made it to D.C., thanks to monetary help from their coach, the International Law Students Association and the Jessup team from Cornell Law School, which donated $500 of its own prize money. At the Jessup costume ball April 10, Phomane, clad in a clan blanket and carrying a horsehair flyswatter, gratefully presented to the four members of the Cornell team, who were dressed as 1950s greasers, a round Basotho grass hat that he wove himself.

Phomane’s story captures a bit of the spirit of the Jessup, an annual ritual that combines the sweet geekiness of a Star Trek convention with the international glamour of World Cup football (as well as its intense rivalry). Lesotho’s luck, though, ran out in the preliminary global round. The eventual winner of the tournament was a U.S. team, Case Western Reserve University School of Law — an upset victory in the Jessup world. It’s only the second time in 17 years that an American team has won, and it’s the first win ever for Case.

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