Alumni Volunteers Support Moot Court Program
Last spring, when King Hall teams took both first and second place at the Williams Institute Moot Court Competition at UCLA, their dominance of the national contest was a source of pride for everyone in the Law School community and especially gratifying for Kimberly Lucia '09.
"The students were amazing," said Lucia, who, with Sarah Asplin '08, volunteered to coach the teams. "Their enthusiasm was contagious, their work ethic was incredible, and I think they really learned from the experience. The fact that the teams won made it that much sweeter but, win or lose, I would have been greatly enriched by the experience."
Both students and alumni volunteers are enriched by participation in the Moot Court program, and volunteers are needed throughout the process, said John Stoller '12, chair of the Moot Court Board. "Alumni can get involved now or wait until spring, and we can accommodate a wide range of commitment levels for volunteer judges and coaches."
Each fall, a majority of the second-year students take Appellate Advocacy (commonly called "Moot Court"), a course which culminates in the annual Moot Court Competition, where students write appellate briefs and deliver arguments before volunteer judges. In the spring, top students are selected to participate in the Neumiller Competition, and the Law School hosts the Asylum & Refugee Law National Moot Court Competition. Additionally, students may participate in interschool competitions.
The fall competition runs from mid-October through early November. Judges may volunteer for one or more sessions, each of which runs from 5-9 pm and involves five rounds of competition, with judges offering written and oral feedback. The Neumiller Competition in early April, and the Asylum & Refugee Law National Moot Court Competition, scheduled for February 4-5, 2012, are similarly organized in evening sessions. In each case, volunteers serve for as many or as few evenings as they choose.
"We need judges for both these competitions, and it's a relatively easy way for alumni to get involved, with a very flexible time commitment," said Stoller. "If you want more involvement, you can volunteer as a practitioner coach, where you would be paired with a 3L student competition coach from the Moot Court Board, working to prepare a competition team over the course of about two months. Again, it is up to the volunteer to determine how often they want to work with the students during that time."
Volunteers are critical to the Moot Court program, which is central to the educational experience of King Hall students, offering them an opportunity to develop skills that will be key to their success as legal professionals, said Angelo DeSantis '08, Legal Writing and Research Fellow and faculty adviser to the Moot Court Board.
"Moot Court greatly improves students' advocacy abilities," DeSantis said. "The adversarial nature of the competitions encourages students to develop effective written advocacy skills. They learn to distil, organize, and insulate their arguments. The program also develops oral advocacy skills, giving students the experience of thinking on their feet as they respond to a panel's questioning. It also allows students to work with practicing attorneys, which is important from a networking perspective and helps them understand the way attorneys think about a case."
"I know that the level of growth I experienced as a result of being in Moot Court was really amazing, in terms of brief writing and overall confidence, and I think you can see that growth occurring in all of the students as they go through the program," said Stoller. "Also, it adds to the community aspect of King Hall that our Law School is known for, because it introduces mentor relationships, both between the 3L students who run the program and the 2Ls they oversee, and also between the students and alumni volunteers."
For many King Hall alumni, volunteering for the program is a way to repay the alumni who helped make Moot Court such a rewarding experience for them as students.
"When I participated in Moot Court, local attorneys acted as judges, giving up their evenings to help us learn and grow to be future attorneys," said Lucia, who has participated as a judge and coached teams for the UCLA competition. "While I always appreciated it, it was only after becoming an attorney that I recognized just how hard it can be to leave work behind to spend time with students. It made me appreciate those volunteers even more and, since it was too late to thank most of them directly, I felt the best way I could thank them was to pay that effort forward and give my time to students."
"I had a great experience in Moot Court," said Sloan Simmons '04, who volunteers to judge the intraschool competition and has coached teams preparing for the Luke Charles Moore Invitational Moot Court Competition at Howard University. "The time necessary to assist in these ways is minor, about four hours a night when judging, and overall about 8-12 hours between January and February to assist with coaching for a competition. The opportunity to support the program and also in a small way give back to King Hall makes the decision to volunteer easy."
King Hall alumni interested in volunteering for the Moot Court program may contact John Stoller directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alumni interested in helping with the program are also encouraged to update their profile in the online Alumni Directory to make it viewable to students, add "moot court" in the groups section, and update their practice areas, making it easier for the Moot Court Board to contact them when their expertise is needed for particular moot court cases.