Feb 13, 2007

Moot court teams compete for prizes

by David Thompson, News Reporter

Liberty competitors are making a splash in more competitions than simply athletics. Grant Rost,  the School of Law’s director of student affairs, coaches Liberty’s undergraduate moot court team.

Last month, Rost’s team, comprised of Hyatt Shirkey and Andrew Finnicum, blew away most of the competition at the American Collegiate Moot Court Association’s nationwide tournament, finishing tied for ninth in the nation. Finnicum placed as the 17th best individual speaker in America. It is Finnicum and and Shirkey’s first year on the team, and it is Rost’s first year coaching.

“They just really did a heck of a job at the national tournament,” said Rost. Not only is Rost a newcomer to Liberty’s program but the program itself is a newcomer to the national scene.

“It’s actually only been around for two years – this is only the second year of competition,” Rost said.
There is another program making waves in intercollegiate competition.

On Friday, Feb. 9, the School of Law sent two teams to the Regent University National Constitutional Law Moot Court Tournament.

Though neither team advanced to the quarterfinals, Professor Scott Thompson, who heads up the law school’s Center for Lawyering Skills and coaches the moot court team, was impressed with their performance.

The tournament was judged on the basis of two categories— oral argumentation and a 35-page legal brief. Thompson was specifically impressed with the oration of the students. “(Liberty’s oral arguments were) as good as any other team there,” he said.

One of the key differences between moot court competitions at the undergraduate and graduate levels is the lack of a required brief for the undergraduates. According to Rost, a brief competition is held at the same time as the moot court tournaments, but the brief is not required to compete in the oral tournament.

When asked about some of the challenges concerning competition at the undergraduate level, Rost replied that “the challenge is to get the students to realize (the preparation that is required) ahead of time, so that they will truly invest themselves in it.”

Thompson had similar sentiments, stressing how much time and energy commitment is required by the law school students.

“Our students are very committed,” he said, noting that “they had to write (their 35-page brief) over Christmas break.”

Add to that the three hours per week that the students spend in front of professors practicing their oral argumentation, and the “countless” hours that they spend practicing privately, and it becomes “a very intense preparation process,” according to Thompson, who participated in moot court competition during his schooling at Regent.

The other difference between competition on the different levels is that the graduate competition is limited to students pursuing a degree in law.

On the undergraduate level, Rost welcomes “students from any major. You don’t have to be interested in law school to go to these kind of things.”

However, he does not discount the invaluable experience the tournaments give to those interested in pursuing a law degree.

“These activities are the best undergraduate activities you could do to prepare you for going to law school,” said Rost.

“It’s not an approximation of what you’ll be doing in law school – it’s exactly the same thing.”
“I am expecting big things next year,” said Rost. “Other schools are relying on us to be the 800-pound gorilla when we get to these tournaments. We have a reputation to uphold,” said Rost.
Thompson expects nothing less from his students.

“I’m looking to bring home some hardware, to fill up that trophy case sitting in front of the law school,” he said.

Contact David Thompson at dbthompson@liberty.edu.

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