It is the moment of truth. You and your partner have covered everything you need to know with the help of the rest of your team and professors. No stone has been left unturned and every detail has been examined. You are prepared. The clerk announces the start of the competition, the judges enter, the mooters and judges silently stand and bow to each other, the clerk announces the matter, and you are called on to present your oral argument. You take a deep breath to settle the butterflies in your stomach and begin.
This scenario is one of the possible end goals of the PSCI 309A: Moot Court and Appellate Advocacy class. According to the course description, “This course involves a role-playing simulation where students discharge the responsibilities of attorneys arguing a case before an appellate-level court.” After a trial court has made a decision about a court case, either side can ask for an appeal and take the case to the appellate-level court if they believe the laws were not applied correctly. There are no witnesses or presentations of evidence in an appellate-level court. There are simply attorneys creating an argument that the law was interpreted and applied correctly or incorrectly. In an appellate-level court, your job is not to eviscerate your opponent with words, but to persuade the judges your reasoning makes more sense than your opponent’s.
Mooting is different from both public speaking and debating. Mooting has aspects of both of them, along with other skills. You are called on to argue your case knowledgeably and eloquently while thinking quickly as the judges fire questions at you to deconstruct your argument. The team that persuades the judges and defends their arguments the best wins.
For centuries, moot court has been part of the training process for lawyers, yet the skills learned and practiced in moot court can apply to a variety of careers other than law. Participants improve their ability to research efficiently when identifying relevant court cases that they can use in their arguments. Analytical skills, creative thinking and critical thinking are used in transforming said relevant court cases into the foundation of your argument. The abilities developed in the class, such as speaking eloquently and smoothly, will make other public speaking projects a lot easier. Working in pairs not only encourages teamwork, but also life-long connections. These skills will help students interested in law school, advocacy, public speaking careers, such as being a press secretary, and more.
Christian Clay is an NEIU alumni who took part in moot court during their career here. They currently work in advocacy and public policy analysis and says that their ‘hands-on’ experience in law and the courtroom has only benefited them in serving the people they work with. One of their favorite things about moot court was working together with everyone on the team and the feeling of being part of something bigger. As Christian summarizes/advises: “One of the most important things to know going into Moot Court is that there is no such thing as an airtight argument… That’s the fun of it! If you go into this seeking perfection, you will be disappointed. If you go into this with goals like improvement and having an absolute blast learning things you never know about the law and how court works, this will be an amazing and unforgettable experience!”
Ellen Sullivan is another student who had a blast participating in moot court. She also loves the comradeship between the team. Ellen says the NEIU teams stood out at competition because “we worked together, we supported each other, we shared notes and made suggestions. We compared judges after each meet. We worked like a law firm; the other schools kept their teams isolated from each other. We did not.”
Although this is listed as a 300-level course, anybody can participate regardless of experience level. If you are interested or have any other questions about moot court, contact professor Gregory Neddenriep, J.D., Ph.D. (LWH 2076). So challenge yourself, because your blood, sweat and tears will pay off.