Thursday, February 24, 2011

Moot Court

When I was choosing law schools, one of the features that I like about Baylor was that they require  all of their first-year students to participate in an intraschool Moot Court competition. Since you're not allowed to participate in Moot Court or Mock Trial until your second year, I thought it would be a wonderful way to indulge my love of debating.

Fast forward one year, and I found myself wondering why I ever thought this would be a good idea. It has become painfully obvious to me over the past six months that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I presented cases for the Arab Court of Justice. In law school, they hand you a 15-page problem packet and wish you luck. Seriously, I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of 4th and 5th Amendment constitutional issues with no clear answer in sight. It's enough to make even the most experienced debaters sick to their stomachs. Usually, I love to talk (just ask Jocelyn - she will quickly confirm this!). However, the mere thought of having to stand up and argue made me want to crawl in a hole for the next two weeks.

 Let me explain the difference between Moot Court and Mock Trial. Moot Court is at the appellate level - basically, it simulates arguing before a Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. Thus, it is completely different than a trial. There is no cross-examination, and there are no witnesses. It is a very formal atmosphere, and the judges can cut in with questions at any time. Additionally, you are not arguing the merits of the case as much as why the district court should/should not be overturned. Once I discovered this, I realized that I think I'm going to like Mock Trial much better - a debate just isn't quite as fun without the chance to cross-examine someone!! :)

One of the things that makes this competition so difficult is that we are given very little guidance. In our legal research class, we were taught how to research and write intra-office memos. However, brief writing and oral arguments are completely different. Instead of citing cases for every statement, we have to come up with arguments on our own, find case law to back them up, and make analogies. The toolbox looks completely different, and making that switch was more difficult that I anticipated.

We had our "class round" on Monday. I set my expectations very low - as long as I didn't throw up, pass out, or cry during the round (though after was acceptable), I would count it a success. I know, that's an incredibly pessimistic outlook - but I was terrified. And there isn't even a cross-examination to look forward to!! Thankfully, the round went pretty well. I stammered around a little bit, but I didn't make a fool of myself, nor did the judges ever ask a question to which I couldn't formulate at least a semblance of an answer.

Our first real round of the competition was last night. We had to switch sides from Monday to yesterday, which was quite interesting. I definitely have areas in which I need to improve, but overall it's not as bad as I thought it would be.

This week, I am thankful for the reassurance that I can do what it takes to be a lawyer. Sometimes I catch myself wondering why I picked this profession - there are never "easy" answers, and the law is rarely black and white (quite a disheartening realization for someone like myself!). Sometimes the difficult overwhelms me, and I find myself wishing I could find a rich husband so that I can stay at home and cook all day (don't judge my domestic side!). :)

But then...I do what needs to be done, and it isn't so bad. And then I realize, I can do this, and who knows where a law degree will lead or what doors will open as a result...

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