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Moot Court or Law Review?

First my bias: I am president of our Moot Court Honors Board.

Q: With all this talk about employment, I thought I'd ask a question about the value of being on a moot court team.  Does anyone have any info they could share about how membership on a moot court team is valued in a job application?

This is only anecdotal but in the Fall, before moot court, I sent out about 30 letters looking for a summer clerkship. 

At this point I was on Law Review.  Got no interviews.  In the Spring, after advancing to the nationals in the Rich Moot Court and including my red covered brief which won best appellee brief in the Western Region as a writing sample, I got two interviews in less than a week after sending  out another 10-15 resumes.

Q: Is it only a plus in litigation jobs?

Actually moot court generally refers to competitions that are like appellate trials.  Trial court competition is generally termed mock trial.

Mock trial puts an emphasis on your skills in examining witnesses, your grasp of the rules of evidence, and your skills in summarizing to a jury. That would be primarily of value to would be litigators.

Moot court emphasizes the rules of law and legal argument.  In most competitions one half of your score is based on your written brief so both writing and oral skills are important.  Both of those are based on your legal reasoning skills.  While the setting of moot court might make it seem rather specialized, after all very few cases go up on appeal particularly on the hard questions of law you find in moot problems, it really is an excellent way to develop your skills of legal analysis and persuasion.  I think moot court skills could be useful to a transactional attorney.  It helps you to see how courts sort out legal problems.

Q: How prestigious is it considered?  Are there any comparisons to law review, as far as a resume is concerned?

The conventional wisdom is that law review is more prestigious.  And lawyers are nothing if not conventional.  But moot court is a resume builder particularly if you advance in a national competition.

Remember that it is an editorship on law review which really carries resume value although law reviews seem to hand out editorships like candy to those who do a second year.  My hunch is that the prestige of the journal also figures into the mix.

In my case, I have a problem of being at a very new school.  We have no reputation.  For me, moot court is valuable because it is an independant yardstick.  I am not shy about telling people that we beat teams from BYU and U of Missouri.  I think the prestige of the schools we beat rubs off on us.

Q: Is it worth it to participate, since it takes tons of time from other classes?

It probably takes less time than law review and it is less drudgery too. It does take a lot of time.  One tip is to try to take a class that covers the topic of the moot court at the same time.  Then the time you spend on moot court will also help with the class.  (If you are lucky, the class might help with moot court too.)

Also consider whether the skills you gain in moot court might just help you generally improve as a law student.  After losing several days of class, a lot of study hours, and, for the nationals, a full week of class three weeks before finals, both my partner and I increased our GPAs and advanced in class rank despite a major tightening of the grading at our school. (Your mileage may vary.)

>Although I'm sure it is hard to measure, does anyone know of firms that
look for moot court experience specifically?  Who value moot court over
grades or other accomplishments?

Let's get one thing perfectly clear, no firm values anything over grades or, more specifically, the ability to do legal work as indicated by grades. Law review, moot court, and other activities are things to do in addition to getting good grades because they are extra evidence of your ability to do legal work.

Don't underestimate the value of moot court as a confidence builder.  You may find that the moot court experience makes you a better interviewee.  I had a crucial interview with a hiring partner who was the ultimate "cold bench."  He just had nothing to ask me!  If I hadn't had the moot court experience of dealing with a panel of judges that seemed vehemently uninterested in what I was saying, I probably would have folded.  As it was, I interviewed him and got the job.

Moot court also has value because it gets you before the legal community. The judges are often practitioners.  This is a great way to meet them and have a chance to demonstrate your ability.  It didn't happen to me, but I have seen a judge (attorney) hop off the bench after announcing the results and start recruiting!

Q: Or is the value of moot court a bit over-rated?

I think moot court is greatly under-rated.

Q: Any thoughts or first-hand knowledge would be appreciated.

Think about what your strengths and weaknesses are.  Choose activities that will strengthen your areas of weakness.  For me, it was application of law to facts.  My arguments tend to be fact anemic.  Concentrating on law review would probably be close to fatal for me.  Moot court requires me to involve facts in my legal arguments.  As I think about it, I really can't think of a weakness that moot court wouldn't touch, although if you're weak with the bluebook you'll get a LOT more of that on law review.

BTW, unless you are a 1L or a 2E, it is a bit late to be thinking about moot court or law review.  Both programs should be pursued for 2 years starting in the fall for maximum benefit.  If you are a 1L, it is a bit early.  The important thing in the first year is to get top grades.  That will allow you to get on law review and moot court, and have the best options for summer work after the first year. Unlike undergrad work, the first year grades are the most important of your law school career.

Jim Henry
3L Chapman University School of Law, Class of '98

[Reprinted with permission]


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