A law school student need a wide range of skills to succeed as an undergrad, and eventually as a practicing lawyer. Courses demand effective organization and management, extensive research abilities, excellent communication skills, and analytical and critical thinking. These skills are best practiced through moot court programs.
What is Moot Court?
A moot court is a simulation of what takes place in court. Except it’s a particular type of court; the simulation is specific to appellate court rather than a lower court or a trial in which evidence and testimony are key features.
An appellate court is a court of appeals. As part of the judicial system, the appellate hears and reviews cases that have already gone through trial. In contrast to a trial, an appeals court goes over the process and determines whether the correct proceedings were applied. That the trial was fair, thereby leading to a decision.
How Does Moot Court Work?
Moot courts are co-curricular activities in many law schools. Some of the schools that place prominently in national moot court rankings include the Michigan State University College of Law, NYU Law School, Baylor University Law School, South Texas College of Law and the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, among many other established universities.
Students participate in the simulation of court or arbitration proceedings, typically consisting of writing memorial papers and presenting oral arguments.
Although a moot court is unlike a trial, with a judge and jury, the proceeding helps a law school student become a good trial lawyer.
Moot court features two teams: a respondent and a defendant. The proceedings begin with a hypothetical case, which is then presented to both teams. This is also what’s known as the moot problem. Once the problem is known, teams then do their research and present their arguments.
Law students participating in moot court must prepare memorials for both sides, which is done after discussions and legal research. Once the memorials are submitted, the oral pleadings follow. One team defends and another presents their argument.
Is a Moot Court Competition Worth It?
The moot courts’ in-school tournaments allow many students to participate in these competitions. They are usually prestigious competitions, featuring final round judges by district judges, appeals court judges and sometimes even a Supreme Court justice.
Almost every legal school has a competition in internal moot courts. Law students rush to moot court to prepare briefs and prepare oral arguments, among others.
Who can Participate?
Members of a moot court team are limited to second- and third-year students. Some universities offer mooting for freshmen law students who are enrolled in the juris doctor (JD) program. A JD degree is the highest law degree in America.
Schools like the University of Saskatchewan, the Antonin Scalia Law School, University of San Francisco School of Law and Columbia Law School all have programs for first-year students to participate in moot court.
Every program requires an application and each will have limited slots.
At Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law, faculty members evaluate a law student’s GPA, written application, writing sample and experience in the subject matter of the moot. Law students wanting to do moot court at Pace also present their oral advocacy before a panel of judges.
The application process, however, starts at spring semester freshman year with written submissions and present oral arguments. Law students who qualify are invited to join a class on advanced appellate advocacy, which culminates with a participation in a grand moot competition.
Are Law Students Required to Do Moot Court?
In general, moot court is an extra-curricular activity. Some schools require participation for their programs and others offer it as an added credit, which is always a good idea. But joining a competition is optional.
Although not all law students must do it, joining a program will always look good on your resume. Law firms tend to favor law students who have demonstrated some success in a courtroom-like setting.
Moot court participation develops debating skills, enhances understanding of what’s relevant and not relevant to a case, allows mastery of oral arguments and writing skills. Participation in a national competition creates experience that allows students to get comfortable with the demands of the legal profession. When you do the international rounds, you’ll also gain honor for yourself and your school if you win.
Moot court isn’t required by most schools, but it gives you an edge.
How to Prepare with Your Moot Court Team
Practicing attorneys know the value of preparation. So preparation for a moot court competition is an excellent way to train for a professional life as a litigator. Aside from developing skills as a lawyer, preparation for moot is also necessary to balance classes, internships, participation in law societies and life, in general, as a law student.
Where do you start?
- Learn the legal and factual points of the case
- Go over all the reading materials, from briefs to bench memos, to determine any question judges may have
- Prepare your oral argument following a structure and sequence that strengthens your advocacy
- Create a brief outline of your argument, featuring the salient points of your argument
- Prepare responses to potential questions
- Understand the rules and regulations of the moot court competition
- Practice with your team, making sure to stick to time limits and being clear about arguments to win at mooting (i.e., oral presentation of a legal issue against the opponent)
National competitions on moot court cover different areas, including arbitration, criminal law and human rights. An international moot court competition may cover public international law and law of the sea convention, among others.
What is the Difference between Moot Court and Mock Trial?
Some confusion may arise when mock trial is used in place of moot court. But moot court is not the same as a mock trial.
A similarity does exist in that both are a simulation of a legal process. The main difference between the two is that a mock trial reproduces what takes place in a jury trial whereas a moot court simulates an appellate court.
Another key difference is that a mock trial is typically practiced in law firms, to help litigators prepare for a trial. Although moot courts are generally done in universities, a law school may also run a mock trial as part of their students’ course.
Moot in Law and in Law School
Used in law, moot may refer to when the federal courts must resolve a legal issue and no legal may brought to court; in this instance, the matter may be considered “moot.” Used in school, moot seeks to answer a legal problem, pitting one team over another. Whoever is more persuasive with their oral argument to the judges will win.