It is that time of year when many law schools are having moot court arguments for their first-year law students. For some — those who love oral advocacy — this can be an exciting time. For others, it can be nerve-racking and turn into a complete time waster.
So, how do I recommend you approach moot court?
#1. Is Your Moot Court Graded?
Determine if the class is pass/fail or graded. At many law schools moot court is a pass/fail activity. If it is, you need to limit the amount of time you focus on it. You can spend tons of time preparing for it, which is great, IF you have tons of extra time. But I don’t know one law student who feels this way. Every first-year law student I know feels as if time to study for finals is running out. Why? Well, finals are just weeks away.
And with finals just weeks away you have to prioritize. That means that although you want to spend time working on your moot court argument, you can’t let it become the only priority (yes, some law students do this). Mainly, this happens because it is more fun than working on outlines. And I agree! I would much rather practice an oral argument than make an outline. However, that doesn’t mean it is the best use of your time.
#2. Pay Attention to Time Management
Set some parameters for the amount of time you are going to prepare. Remember my post on time management? One of the things I talked about was being very realistic about how much time you spend on various tasks. Moot court preparation is no different.
Decide how much time you need to prepare to feel good about the process. It may be five hours, or it may be eight. But set aside that time and only that time. Because in the end, if you spend 15 hours on moot court (which may be pass/fail) instead of working on your outlines (for classes that are part of your GPA) you may, in the long run, regret it.
#3. Prepare the Right Way
Prepare in the right way. The Lawyerist.com had a great blog post recently on how to prepare for an oral argument. I thought a lot of this advice was valuable and can be applied to a moot court oral argument. I actually prepared using flash cards in a similar way to that suggested by the author in the post. The most effective thing I did when preparing for my argument was practice making my various points in different orders — so when I was interrupted by the panel and had to change course — I was comfortable speaking about the material in any order necessary.
#4. Be Professional
Be professional — you never know who your judge may be. I had a lot of fun with moot court (I like to speak in front of people) and I won an award for my oral argument. I was pretty happy about it, but I figured that other than putting that nifty award on my resume, moot court would never be spoken of again!
Well, in the fall of my second year, I was on a callback interview for a large law firm. While in the elevator on our way to lunch, one attorney kept saying that she remembered me. I had no idea how we could have known each other, but she was sure. At lunch, she remembered — she had been a judge for my moot court competition. Luckily, she remembered that I had done a good job! That may have helped me get my job offer — who knows? So always be professional and do a good job because you never know who your judge may be.
And by being professional, I mean dressing in an appropriate suit, being prepared so you sound as if you know what you are talking about, and treating this as though you were going to court. Don’t do anything distracting to annoy the judges. Treat this as it should be treated — you are pretending you are arguing at an appellate court!
Keeping these tips in mind will help you get the most out of your moot court experience. Good luck!
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