Moot Court Program
Savannah Law School has developed a rigorous training program designed to equip our moot court teams with the skills necessary to win national competitions. Our system is characterized by strong faculty leadership and administrative support, and it focuses on four main categories: (1) selection process; (2) team composition; (3) team preparation for competition; and (4) coach training and management.
During the Spring semester, all 1L students are required to submit a brief and present an oral argument as part of Legal Writing, Research, and Analysis II. Each oral argument round is videotaped for two reasons: (1) to educate 1L students by allowing them to watch their own video and learn from it; and (2) to establish a consistent and uniform vehicle for choosing students for moot court.
The videos and student briefs are reviewed by the director of moot court and coaches to determine eligibility for the team. Only students who have submitted an intent to compete form will have their video and brief reviewed.
Membership on the moot court board is by invitation only at the discretion of the director (with input from the coaches) with one exception: the winner of the 1L oral argument competition automatically receives an invitation to moot court. Selection to compete in the 1L competition does not bear on whether a student will be invited to participate on moot court. Thus, a student may receive an invitation to moot court even if the student is not selected to compete in the 1L competition, and vice versa.
The 1L oral argument competition begins shortly after the students complete their arguments for LWRA I. The moot court executive board is responsible for organizing the competition and arranging for judges. All LWRA professors are permitted to send their top students to the 1L competition; the number selected will be evenly distributed across sections.
The competition begins with a round of 16 and then proceeds with single elimination to a round of 8, then 4, then 2. The final round is judged by members of local judiciary, and preliminary rounds are judged by faculty and local practitioners.
During the Spring Intersession, all new members of moot court are required to enroll in appellate advocacy, and existing members of moot court assist the professor during the week-long course. The purpose of the class is two-fold: (1) to train students to begin preparing for the upcoming competitions; and (2) to observe how the existing members are working with the new members so that the director can strategically group students into competition teams.
The course is run like a “boot camp.” Each day focuses on a different aspect of appellate advocacy germane to moot court competitions. Mornings will be confined to intense training/lecture and the afternoon will facilitate break-out groups so students can practice the skills taught in the morning session. The schedule focuses on the brief for three days and oral advocacy for two days because most competitions prohibit any coaching during the brief writing stage while permitting varying degrees of assistance during the oral argument preparation.
On the last day of the intersession, students will be given a short explanation of the nature of each competition. Though students may rank the competitions by preference, the director is not bound by them; they merely serve as a guide for team composition. Final team assignments are made considering the varying personalities, strengths, and weaknesses of the competitors as well as their academic background. The director also considers written critiques from the coaches. Teams will be announced before the beginning of school, and students are encouraged to cultivate a rapport with each other before competition.
Students should expect to compete in one competition per year. During a non-competition semester, members will be assigned as student coaches to competing teams as an assistant to the primary coach. The student coaches will assist the director with both substantive material and logistical matters (such as booking rooms and judges for practices). Student coaches are required to attend all oral argument practices.
Students are generally provided about four weeks to submit their briefs for a competition and four weeks to prepare for the oral argument. Typically, students are not allowed any outside help during the brief writing process. During the brief writing process, students will be expected to meet each day including Saturdays and Sundays.
Even though coaches are not allowed to provide feedback or materials, they can serve as a check-in for the team. On the date the problem is released for each competition, students will draft a research and writing schedule and submit it to their faculty coach. For each deadline, students are required to submit a copy of the materials to the faculty coach. Thus, if students allot one week for research, an entire listing of sources with correct citations should be submitted to the coach by the due date. Every draft should be submitted to the coach as well. Students should schedule in at least 4 drafts to provide sufficient time for editing and proofreading.
Once the brief is submitted most competitions permit coach participation in the oral advocacy preparation. Practice for orals will start no later than two (2) days after students submit their briefs; for competitions that allow practices to begin before submission of the brief, teams will adapt accordingly. Students will initially work together as a team and the coach to develop the arguments and points for the oral argument. The benefit is that students will not spend more than one week developing the legal side of their arguments, and they can focus on style and delivery which counts significantly at competition.
Assuming students are given four weeks for oral argument preparation, the first week should focus on learning to deliver the argument without the use of notes. Practices are conducted 4 – 6 times per week and sometimes twice in one day. Practices are usually scheduled for a minimum of two hours. The final two weeks of practice should focus on style and delivery. Each practice will be videotaped, and the students are required to watch the video prior to the next practice.
Managing & Training Coaches
Coaches are chosen from faculty or moot court alumni in the community, and they will be assisted by student coaches. Coaches will have some practical appellate advocacy or moot court experience and will be assigned to a competition team when the students are assigned. Whenever possible, prior to the release of the competition problem, coaches will meet with the team periodically to establish rapport and clearly express the expectations for how the students will approach the competition.
Coaches maintain a detailed journal/log throughout the year to record all team meetings and practices, and the student coach can serve as the record-keeper for the team if the primary coach desires. The logs are passed down from year to year to ensure consistency in training and replication of results.
Coaches are required to:
- Attend coaches training before the beginning of school;
- Attend the final days of the appellate advocacy held in the Spring intersession;
- Cultivate camaraderie and teamwork among the students;
- Immediately address any problems among the students such as failure by anyone to participate equally, hostility, illness, or any other issues that may arise;
- Maintain a record of team meetings, practices, and the positive and negative aspects of the competition;
- Attend at least 1 workshop, conference, or webinar on training a successful moot court team;
- Participate in periodic team meetings throughout the year; and
- Debrief the director following competition for purposes of improving performance the following year.
Coaching a moot court team is not a passive endeavor; rather, it involves a substantial commitment of time, emotion, and intellect. Coaches work to transform the students into brilliant conversationalists by aiding students in understanding the points they need to make during oral argument and delivering those points conversationally to a judge. The goal is to take a complicated issue and make it seem simple and easy to understand.