Friday, October 31, 2014

Government students flex their courtroom skills

Both Moot Court, mock trial teams of the Helms School of Governemnt (HOSG) placed, with one at a close second, in a new tournament held at Mercer University’s School of Law in Georgia.

According to Coach and Professor Scott Thompson, this was Liberty University’s first tournament of the competition year. The tournament ran Nov. 13-14. The team of Hannah Reichel and Tim Todd, both third year law students, placed second. The team of Spencer Drake and Jennifer Stevens also made it to the top four.

Mercer’s Law School announced it was hosting the nation’s first moot court competition on legal ethics and professionalism.

“We thought it would be a good tournament to be a part of,” Thompson said.

The mock trial competitions can focus on anything from product liability law to criminal procedure.

Moot court competitions give students the chance to practice what they are learning, Thompson said. Students have the opportunity to present arguments as they would in an actual courtroom. The first task of a tournament is to write a brief, which is the legal analysis of the argument.

“The tournament coordinator prepares a problem that simulates something an attorney would actually have to do in practice. The teams are then assigned to either represent the plaintiff or the defendant,” Thompson said.

For this particular tournament real case was used, Todd said. According to Todd and Reichel, the case they were given was one settled before it was argued before the Supreme Court. They were tasked with presenting the case as if to the Supreme Court. They needed to research case law and the records of the case.

“We split the brief. Tim and I were working really hard, especially the last few days before the deadline,” Reichel said.

After the brief is submitted, the teams had about a month to practice their oral arguments, Thompson said. He requires his teams to practice at least 10 times before a panel of professors. These faculty members act as judges to critique and prepare teams, Thompson said.

“They’ll ask us every question under the sun. They’ll try to throw us curve balls to throw us off track. They’ll try to waste our speaking time, try to throw us off our argument,” Reichel said.

This prepares the teams for the difficulties they could face in the tournament. Another difficult aspect of the tournament is each team must present both sides of the argument, Thompson said. The teams must be as passionate and persuasive on both sides of the issues, even if they oppose the views they are presenting.

Even with all this hard work, Reichel and Todd agree they both enjoy the competition. Reichel enjoys the dialogue with the judges practiced in the tournaments. She hopes to be involved in negotiations someday, but still loves the experience in moot court. Todd, she said, would end up in the Supreme Court one day.

“I would just say from beginning to end it’s just fun. From the preparation to the competition itself, everything about it is fun. It’s a challenge,” Todd said.

“Moot court is invaluable. It takes both written and oral work and being able to think quickly and analyze. All those skills that are critical to being a good lawyer. It mushes them together in one very fun-filled weekend,” Thompson said.

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