Extracurricular: Moot Court

Last week, I posted about law reviews and journals, a popular law school extracurricular for 2Ls and 3Ls. This week, I’m shifting my focus to another popular extracurricular for second and third year students: moot court.

What is moot court? Moot court is the chance for law students to argue hypothetical cases, occasionally in front of distinguished lawyers and judges. Moot court arguments and briefs take place at the appellate level, meaning there has already been a lower level decision, which one party is appealing. While there is variation in different moot courts, most have the same general structure. A problem is given, typically in the form of a memorandum or a notice of appeal. This document will include a record of the case, including evidence pieces, and any other document that the problem writers/moot court organizers think competitors would need. Competitors will then be given a side to take (appellant or appellee) and will write a brief explaining why the lower court either correctly or incorrectly decided the case below. Oral arguments will occur, and there is some variation on how these will go. Some moot courts will start with rounds where everyone argues then go into knock out rounds, some will have rounds where it is just knock out, meaning competitors go head to head and only the winner advances, or some will just have rounds where everyone argues and the competitors with the top score will win.

Who does moot court? Almost every law student, even those who want to practice transactional law can benefit from moot court, as it strengthens your research and writing skills, as well as your litigation/presentation skills. Participating in moot court can also help someone who doesn’t know if they want to be a transactional attorney or a litigator (like me) decide whether or not litigation is for them. There are moot court opportunities in every area of the law: international law, animal law, intellectual property, family law, health law, constitutional law, and everything in between.

What is the difference between external and internal moot courts? Internal moot courts are held by your school and so all competitors are from your school. External moot courts are run by outside organizations (including law schools) and are open to teams from almost every law school. Teams will usually have to travel for external competitions, but many schools will help cover some (or all) of the travel expenses.

How long does moot court last? The length of time devoted to moot court will vary based on the competition (and how far you advance in it) but at the very least, competitions will give you a month (most give you more) to submit a brief. Oral arguments can last one weekend, a few weeks for internal competitions, or may span over a few weekends; it all depends on the set up of the specific competition.

Like I wrote last week, I’ve heard that moot court is for students who want to litigate and journal is for those who want to do transactional work. I don’t agree with this, because even for those who want to do transactional work, the experience in legal research, writing, and presenting (arguing) provided by moot court will be beneficial.  Regardless of what you want your legal career to look like, participating in moot court will look good on a resume.

Next week, I will continue my series on law school extracurriculars for 2Ls and 3Ls with a focus on leadership positions in organizations.


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