Mister Chief Justice and may it please the court…
Moot court is something special. It transcends the everyday and takes you to a higher plane of thought. At least, that’s how I think of it. I LOVE moot court, but I’ll be the first to tell you that it is HARD. However, I have learned that if you invest in it, moot court will grow you into a stronger, smoother speaker who gives mic-drop answers using razor-sharp reasoning skills.
I would like to give you a few tips to approaching moot court that makes you a better advocate and helps you have more fun. These aren’t just abstract tips. I’ve actually done these. In fact, I’m doing them right now as I prepare to compete at Nationals in collegiate moot court.
Fully immerse yourself in moot court
Moot court can be daunting at first. And two months in. And six months in. In all honesty, I’m still intimidated by it to this day. That’s ok. The Supreme Court of the United States is daunting too. Ask anyone who has argued before the Supreme Court.
“Come on, Hope,” you say. “It’s just pretend. We’re not actually arguing for a real person in front of the real Supreme Court.” To which I say, “but what if it were real? What if you actually were arguing for a real person before the real Supreme Court trying to affect real change?”
That is the attitude you should have when you compete in moot court. Take it seriously! Fully immerse yourself in the role of The Attorney: arguing passionately on behalf of your client, who has been seriously injured; or defending the United States of America, who has done nothing wrong. Don’t do it half-heartedly. You get out of moot court what you put into it. So throw your whole self into it! Treat every round as if it were your one chance to speak before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Your client is counting on you for justice. Act like it.
Read the cases
Real talk: life is busy. Between high school (or college) classes, SAT prep, and everything else you are doing, your time is very limited. I get it. But actually reading the cases is invaluable to your moot court preparation for a few reasons:
SCOTUS has some pretty punchy lines. Use them to your advantage. Memorize them to use as answers to questions. Incorporate them into your arguments. Respond to opposing counsel’s arguments with them. They are wonderful little tools.
- Actually understanding the cases
This one seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I have heard cases misrepresented or misquoted because counsel hasn’t actually read the case. Read the whole thing. Read the footnotes. Read the concurrences and dissents. Read it all.
- Commentary on other cases
It is common for cases to comment on past cases. Sometimes, SCOTUS overturns past cases (a fancy way of saying that they were wrong). They may even comment on cases you have available to you. That can increase your understanding of those cases, show you how to apply them to different circumstances, and distinguish the rule from dicta. (if you have no idea what I just said, let me explain: the “rule” is the part of a case that is binding on lower courts. It is the actual decision and the reasoning behind it that causes real change. It is how they answer the question presented to them. Anything else, like commentary on other cases or thoughts about potential future cases, is “dicta,” which is the non-binding opinion of the court. Dicta can be great for persuasive or rhetorical appeal, but it is not binding on the court.)
Tune into Hope’s next article for tips on – how to read cases…
Hope Turner is a Lasting Impact! Team Member and Coach. She is the reigning Moot Court Champion, along with her partner Hope Rawlson. For more one on one coaching, contact us.