Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

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Scotusnerd
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Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby Scotusnerd » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:04 pm

2L here. Turning in brief this Friday, have oral arguments next Tuesday. Wondering if anyone has any tips/suggestions for scoring well with the judges.

Judges will be various attorneys in the community, so I don't wanna look like an idiot.

LSATNightmares
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby LSATNightmares » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:28 pm

Follow whatever rules or suggestions the moot court directors give you, like in a grading rubric.

As someone who did a lot of rounds in my school's tourney, I also found that staying away from arguments that had holes in them and hammering on the strongest ones was a good recipe for success. I made the mistake of trying to touch on every argument in the brief with the hopes that one would stick, and coming up with a good counter argument when judges brought up the holes. But judges just remembered that I brought up semi-problematic arguments, even if they were the arguments that one had to make in the brief. They voted for the team that always stuck to the very best arguments, since they remembered those very strong arguments. You might find yourself coming up a bit short on time, but I never saw it being a problem when teams stuck with the very best arguments. But this is a tip for winning the whole thing, rather than merely looking decent in front of attorneys.

I generally found that most attorneys did not have time to really understand the problem. So if you can explain it nicely without assuming they know everything, you'll be good.

jml8756
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby jml8756 » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:47 pm

In my opinion, the biggest key to success for oral arguments is having an exhaustive knowledge of the facts of your case and all relevant law. Go back and read all your materials and make sure you know it cold. This knowledge will give you confidence because you'll have the foundation for answering whatever question they may throw at you.

Get together with some of your classmates, find an empty classroom, and practice with each other. Take turns asking each other every question you can think of - obvious and non-obvious. Make sure you've got a good response for all the main issues that are likely to come up, but that you're flexible enough to respond to the non-obvious issues and pivot back into your main points. That's where knowing your case serves you well.

These attorneys know that you are students, and they will want you to succeed. They haven't taken sides, and they're not out to trip you up. I always thought oral arguments were fun once I was up there, so relax and enjoy the experience!

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Tanicius
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby Tanicius » Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:05 pm

Have an ear for what cases the judges think are important. I won our first-year intramural competition pretty much by just picking up on the judges' taste for one small case each time and factually distinguishing/similarizing it each time.

Also, talk slow, talk loud. That alone will put you ahead of a ton of people. I wouldn't say you need to know the facts of the record and other cases as well as you should be able to affirmatively state a position on them. "Can we all concede ____?" Lean in and say "Yes." I have a lot of experience in mock trial, and lessons learned from that activity can be summed up thusly: The appearance of confidence accounts for the majority of your score. That definitely rang true for moot court battles, even though it is a more academic exercise than trials.

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Scotusnerd
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby Scotusnerd » Mon Sep 30, 2013 6:18 am

Thanks for the info. I had a more specific question too: I'm respondent. I know that the Petitioner gets up there and makes their canned speech at the beginning about what the case is about, and generally doesn't get farther than 30 seconds before being questioned/

What about respondent? Should I make a little canned speech for the beginning, or should I just lead off of one of opposing counsel's points and explain why they're wrong?

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:38 am

Skip any canned speech ("This case is about..."). Go to your arguments. You still want to start with a brief roadmap, though. ("Your Honors, we ask that you affirm the court's decision below for three reasons. First, blah, second, blah, third, blah. To address my first reason...") You may not get to address them in that order - the judges may do something like, "Counselor, would you begin by addressing appellant's argument that [reason three stuff]." - but I still think roadmaps are extremely important. But a canned bit about the facts/importance of the Fourth Amendment [or whatever, obviously] is usually redundant and unnecessary. (In real life, you might want to do this if you have facts on your side and not much else, but a competition problem usually gives you plenty of legal arguments to make so you just want to get to them.)

I actually do think that knowing the cases and the record cold is important, and a good way to impress your judges. I've rarely seen the "can we concede that..." move alluded to above, but have frequently seen judges ask random questions about the facts in the record (sometimes even in real life - someone on the panel wants a fact quickly confirmed or not). When you're asked if something happened, and it's a yes/no question, getting it wrong kinda sucks, because unless you're the appellant on rebuttal, the other side *will* point it out.

I think the advice to hammer the strong arguments and avoid weak ones makes a certain amount of sense, but in my experience the weak arguments were completely set up by the problem, and the judges knew enough to ask about them, and always did. So you'd likely have to address them regardless.

LSATNightmares
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby LSATNightmares » Wed Oct 02, 2013 3:25 pm

I thought of one more piece of advice. This is for the more advanced stages of oral arguments, but I would start thinking about limitations. For example, what test do you want the court to adopt? Is it a principled test? What limitations can you establish to prevent a slippery slope to something that the court is concerned about? This was really important, and the people who did this well advanced.

z0rk
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby z0rk » Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:20 pm

Take note of the questions that the judges ask the petitioner during oral argument, particularly those questions that seem to favor your position. When making your argument feel free to reference the question an answer it yourself. Example:
During Petitioners Argument
Justice z0rk: Counsel, is it your contention that a juvenile adjudication, proven beyond a reasonable doubt consistent with Winship, but without a jury is truly sufficient to increase a recidivist offender's sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act?
Petitioner: Yes your honor, the respondent received appropriate legal safeguards consistent with due process concerns to render the juvenille conviction valid for the purposes of sentence enhancement.

During your Argument
Respondent: As justice z0rk pointed out, respondent's juvenile conviction was entered pursuant to the safeguards in Winship but without a jury. This element proves essential, as McKeiver tells us that juvenille adjudications are not of the same nature and function as an adult criminal conviction. They serve as a matter of rehabilitation. Imagine for example an adult, in his forties, convicted of a violent felony. This adult then has three prior violent felony convictions all as a juvenille without a jury. He doesn't have an intervening violations between his teens and his adult conviction. The Court must confront a very delicate question in this instance, and that is whether an adult must face a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years, predicated upon three juvenille adjudications that did not have a jury component. This collides with apprendi.


By doing something like that you make a justice OWN a certain position, whether they intended to or not.

Also, I echo what the other posters in this thread have said. Make sure you really dig into the record, prepare good notes (nothing exorbitant, two pages, stapled to a folder, size 14 or 16 font so you can read it, half in margins, double spaced).

hiima3L
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby hiima3L » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:48 pm

1. Practice and preparation. If there's anything I learned from mooting, it's that you need to know EVERYTHING about the case inside and out.

2. Answer questions directly. This can often be easily done by starting off your response with yes or no.

3. Acknowledge weaknesses in your case. There's a reason every moot court case can be argued well on either side but both sides also have problems.

4. Have a roadmap. I always like when oralists frame the case from the get-go with something like "This case is about (witty issue framing)." Then "The X court's decision should be affirmed/reversed for the following 2-3 reasons."

5. Much easier said than done, but be conversational. Have it flow naturally.

6. Don't be afraid to take a couple of seconds to think before you speak. If you need to think, just look down briefly, make it obvious you're thinking, and then respond.

7. Most importantly, be prepared for your judges to not know the case well at all, so prepare accordingly.

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Scotusnerd
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby Scotusnerd » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:14 pm

Okay, one further question. What do you do when they tell you to switch sides? Any tips or ideas? This is really throwing me off balance.

hiima3L
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby hiima3L » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:27 am

Scotusnerd wrote:Okay, one further question. What do you do when they tell you to switch sides? Any tips or ideas? This is really throwing me off balance.


You...switch sides. I'm not sure what else to tell you. You should know what the strongest arguments on each side are. What's throwing you off?

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Dr. Review
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby Dr. Review » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:25 am

hiima3L wrote:1. Practice and preparation. If there's anything I learned from mooting, it's that you need to know EVERYTHING about the case inside and out.



This is all great advice. I did a moot court competition that resulted in the top two teams arguing before a panel of judges from the Federal Circuit, and point #7 was still true. Both teams got by on some pretty egregious stretching of the record. Having said that, KNOW THE RECORD.

Sleep with it under your pillow if you have to. During my competition, I had the record from November to March, and I still picked up on new things when I read the record the night before an argument. Knowing the record cold is one of the things that can really impress a judge. I had a judge ask me a question that they thought would be tough, but because I could quote from the record without even looking at it, I was able to throw a key paragraph right back at them.

I could give a lot of other advice, but when it comes to the argument section, I found that knowing the record is the number one easiest and most effective way to improve.

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kwais
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby kwais » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:33 am

1) know the facts and law better than your opponent.

2) Bait the hook, meaning, make an argument that leads the panel to a certain question, a question you have a stellar answer to. It shows off your skills in "thinking on your feet"

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Scotusnerd
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby Scotusnerd » Wed Oct 16, 2013 8:43 pm

Just wanted to say thank you for the advice. It got me into the finals and let me argue in front of some judges. 8) Woot!

LSATNightmares
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby LSATNightmares » Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:45 am

Scotusnerd wrote:Just wanted to say thank you for the advice. It got me into the finals and let me argue in front of some judges. 8) Woot!


Sweet! Congrats.

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bsktbll28082
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby bsktbll28082 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:08 pm

1L here. We're starting a Moot Court competition soon.

I read through this thread. I will try to learn the material cold. I'm a little worried about the brief I'll have to do because we haven't really covered them in LRW.

Any other basic advice for someone with no experience (ie mock trial)?

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sd5289
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby sd5289 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:11 pm

bsktbll28082 wrote:1L here. We're starting a Moot Court competition soon.

I read through this thread. I will try to learn the material cold. I'm a little worried about the brief I'll have to do because we haven't really covered them in LRW.

Any other basic advice for someone with no experience (ie mock trial)?


More than half of your preparation for oral argument will be researching and writing the brief. You'll learn it as you go. You can also Google it to look at sample briefs online.

When you're researching and writing the brief, pay attention to the opposing side. I'd suggest writing your actual brief first, and then going back to the opposing case law/articles you flagged and digesting that.

As for the oral argument itself: 1) answer the judge's question, especially if it gets asked more than once or they go back to it after your first "answer" (it's okay if if it forces you to concede something because you can rely on the nice little pivoting device of "yes, but..."); 2) know the standard of review (can't count how many times I've seen a competitor struck dumb by this question); and 3) know your two or three main points by heart (don't read them off your notes if you take any up with you).

hiima3L
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby hiima3L » Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:54 pm

hiima3L wrote:1. Practice and preparation. If there's anything I learned from mooting, it's that you need to know EVERYTHING about the case inside and out.

2. Answer questions directly. This can often be easily done by starting off your response with yes or no.

3. Acknowledge weaknesses in your case. There's a reason every moot court case can be argued well on either side but both sides also have problems.

4. Have a roadmap. I always like when oralists frame the case from the get-go with something like "This case is about (witty issue framing)." Then "The X court's decision should be affirmed/reversed for the following 2-3 reasons."

5. Much easier said than done, but be conversational. Have it flow naturally.

6. Don't be afraid to take a couple of seconds to think before you speak. If you need to think, just look down briefly, make it obvious you're thinking, and then respond.

7. Most importantly, be prepared for your judges to not know the case well at all, so prepare accordingly.


Since posting this, I've judged 3 moot court comps. Based on that experience, here are some thoughts:

1. Oh my god, just answer the question and acknowledge the problem with your side. Mooters so rarely do this and it is so aggravating. It makes me stop listening to people when they're bullshitting through their teeth.

2. Know EVERYTHING you cite in your brief. You should be able to discuss every case in your brief. And make sure your argument is tied to your brief. By that I mean, don't argue stuff not in your brief or, if you do, acknowledge it. It's fine to discover stuff after submitting your brief. But if you cite something in your brief then try to argue it at oral arg, you better know it well. I recently had a competitor who cited a case in a string cite but then argued it right off the bat. She couldn't argue it. I looked it up after the argument and it was the perfect case, and one that no one else had cited (I judged 3 rounds of 2 teams). That case alone could have won one side, IMO. But she completely and utterly blew it during the argument.

3. This may sound obvious, but for god's sake, don't stretch the record. Getting caught on that will just ruin your credibility and make me stop paying attention to you entirely.

4. This may also sound obvious, but don't argue something you simply cannot get behind theoretically. If you can't make an argument without feeling like you're completely bullshitting, don't make the argument. TL;DR this one competitor made a "constitutional" policy argument when the Constitution wasn't even related. That led to ~5 of his 15 minutes being one gigantic distraction that made him look like an idiot.

5. If you're the respondent, attack the petitioner's argument. If you know of a big, gaping FACTUAL problem with their argument, attack it at the outset. It makes the panel think the other side is BS-ing and that you are more credible.

6. Speak slowly. You will know if you're speaking too fast by practicing once with someone. If you are a fast speaker, make every conscious effort you can to slow down. IRL, I've dealt with some attorneys who are fast speakers who seem terrible at argument because you can't pay attention, but then you read the transcript and their arguments are great. You don't get that benefit at moot court comps.

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bsktbll28082
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby bsktbll28082 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:59 pm

Thanks!

I also found this article: http://cisgw3.law.pace.edu/cisg/moot/Winning_the_Moot_Court_Oral_Argument.pdf

Pretty long, but it helped me understand the process as a whole.

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sd5289
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby sd5289 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:04 pm

hiima3L wrote:1. Oh my god, just answer the question and acknowledge the problem with your side. Mooters so rarely do this and it is so aggravating. It makes me stop listening to people when they're bullshitting through their teeth.


Agreed.

This is probably the #1 piece of advice I'd give to anyone new to moot court/oral argument.

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BelugaWhale
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby BelugaWhale » Sat Jan 25, 2014 12:21 am

sd5289 wrote:
hiima3L wrote:1. Oh my god, just answer the question and acknowledge the problem with your side. Mooters so rarely do this and it is so aggravating. It makes me stop listening to people when they're bullshitting through their teeth.


Agreed.

This is probably the #1 piece of advice I'd give to anyone new to moot court/oral argument.

Related to this, if the judges pose a hypo to you, don't say something to the effect of "your honor, the facts in this case are different than in the hypo you posed".

The judges know its different, they want to see how your argument applies in other contexts. So answer it, and if the hypo isnt in your favor, then deal with i AFTER having answered the hypo.

sidhesadie
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby sidhesadie » Sat Jan 25, 2014 12:34 am

If there is that one thing, that thing that you think "boy, this is a problem for my side", HAVE A RESPONSE. Even if the other side did NOT raise it in their brief. The "court" will. Have a response.

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bsktbll28082
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby bsktbll28082 » Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:08 pm

Is it common for the moot court board to send out sample briefs with the main arguments/cases you should focus on? I don't understand why we wrote our own briefs then. The judges don't even see them.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:53 pm

bsktbll28082 wrote:Is it common for the moot court board to send out sample briefs with the main arguments/cases you should focus on? I don't understand why we wrote our own briefs then. The judges don't even see them.

Do you mean that the board sent out bench memos to the judges for the competition? If so, this is incredibly common. It's hard enough to get people to judge moot court competitions as it is; if you had to make the judges read the student briefs for all the sessions they judge, no one would do it. It's also fairly realistic to actual appellate panels, where judges may be relying on bench memos prepared by their clerks, rather than on the briefs and record. (If they're not authoring the opinion.)

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Gamecubesupreme
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Re: Tips for Moot Court oral arugments

Postby Gamecubesupreme » Mon Feb 17, 2014 1:13 am

Speak slowly and clearly.

You've been living with your problem's facts and case laws for weeks, but a lot of the judges (especially in the preliminary rounds) didn't read anything about them until the day of the competition.

Never assume anything is obvious or elementary. Pretend the judges are 10-year olds that you need to slow down and explain everything to.

This is a good way to focus only on your strongest arguments without leaving too much time on the clock.




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