Journals v. Moot Court (Can they co-exist?)

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Re: Journals v. Moot Court (Can they co-exist?)

Postby vanwinkle » Fri Apr 09, 2010 4:25 pm

Moot court works in a series of rounds that each significantly reduce the number of people moving forward. Here at UVA, over 200 people go into the first round of competition and they whittle it down to 64 right there. It's a two-year process, and once you lose a round, it's over for you. The whole process goes for the entire 2L and 3L year, and those lucky few who make it to the end actually have to dedicate two full years to it. (Finals for the Class of 2010 are being held tomorrow, between the last four people standing, two teams of two going head-to-head for the title.)

As a result the time commitment greatly varies depending on how far you advance. A lot of people do both, and then decide their time commitment from there. If you keep advancing in Moot Court that might be a good reason not to seek a managing board position at your journal; if you lose in Moot Court before they pick the managing board at the end of 2L, you know you'll have more free time and can shoot for that.

The real time commitment in journals are the cite checks, which apparently consume entire weekends and sometimes the surrounding week. Different journals have different numbers of cite checks depending on how often they publish; here the Law Review has 8, but there are a couple journals that have as few as 2 per year.

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Re: Journals v. Moot Court (Can they co-exist?)

Postby Wellsfargowagon » Sat Apr 10, 2010 9:31 am

I'm going to answer a slightly different question than the one the OP asked. Yes, anyone with a half-decent work ethic has time to do moot court and a journal. I'm on managing board, and I also want to continue competing in our intramural tournament if I advance. The real question is whether the combined experience of doing both would be worthwhile given the opportunity costs involved.

Most employers (big law firms, judges, and many federal agencies) care most about grades. The conventional wisdom puts grades >>> journal > moot court. I think this wisdom is correct. If undertaking an extracurricular means risking a GPA hit, think hard about whether the time that could have been spent reading, outlining, taking practice exams, etc. really would be better spent on that extracurricular.

There are a lot of instances in which trade-off will be worth it. Many firms and most judges view journal membership as a necessary prerequisite to considering you. A lot of editorial duties involve time-consuming drudgery, but even cite checks--if properly done--get you more familiar with the Bluebook and instill good habits of editing a text closely. Journals vary vastly in what they require of their editors. Vanwinkle is right that the difference in workload between UVA's main law review and some of our secondary journals is huge. Even though VLR probably makes more demands on a student's time than would any other journal here (except maybe VJIL), the prestige bump, the editing experience, and the networking opportunities make it worth one's time in the vast majority of cases. It's certainly been worth mine.

Having done three extramural competitions and two rounds of our intramural competition, I can also talk some about the value of moot court. If you think being a moot court rockstar will make up for mediocre grades or lack of journal membership, think again. Moot court really only increases your employability directly if you 1) win an extramural tournament, 2) advance far in an intramural tournament with which alums are familiar, or maybe 3) do reasonably well in a competition that your interviewer once participated in. It's also quite time-consuming if you want to succeed at it. That said, participating in it does yield some indirect benefits. Researching the law and crafting legal argument, two things that lawyers regularly do, is what moot court is all about. Few will become dedicated appellate practitioners, and many will never handle an appeal. Still, the processes that moot court involves help sharpen skills essential to good lawyering. In working closely with your teammates, you make connections (maybe even friends) and practice collaborating with others on strategy, research, and writing.

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