Life Beyond the Classroom – Tiffany Eisenbise and Brian Buckmire

Brian BuckmireEisenbiseTAt W&L Law, students benefit from the many experiences and learning opportunities both within and beyond the classroom.  We asked several of our current law students to discuss the activities and organizations they have chosen to devote their time and energies to.   Today, 3Ls Tiffany Eisenbise and Brian Buckmire explain the role of Moot Court’s Davis Competition in student life at W&L Law.  Additional information about the Davis Competition can be found by clicking here.

Each fall there is a buzz in the air as students arrive in Lexington, classes begin for the semester and Moot Court competitions get underway.  Why the buzz about Moot Court?  Well, we are here to tell you all about it.

As the Davis Administrators we serve on the Moot Court Executive Board (MCEB).  The MCEB is a team of ten 3Ls responsible for administering all of W&L’s internal competitions.  As the administrators we write the problems, organize the competitions, coach competitors, and work with judges and practitioners to visit W&L to judge our best and brightest.

Each year the MCEB hosts five internal competitions.  Negotiations, Appellate Advocacy, Client Counseling and Mock Trial competitions take place in the fall.  In the spring we host the Mediation competition.  Every W&L law student is able to participate in some way.  Second and third year students are able to participate in the competitions, while first year students are able to serve as bailiffs or witnesses in the various competitions.  Regardless of a student’s level of participation, there is a lot to learn and a lot of fun to be had from Moot Court competitions.

As we mentioned, we are the administrators of the John W. Davis Appellate Advocacy competition – a competition that simulates an argument before the Supreme Court.  To compete participants must write a brief and argue their case before “the Court.”  The competition begins the first week of school with students attending a primer conducted by a W&L professor.  At this meeting tips and tricks for brief writing and oral advocacy are shared with the competitors.  After the primer students are off to the races as the competition officially starts.

The competition consists of a problem with two issues that participants must research, write a brief on and then argue their case.  The issues are typically constitutional in nature and are issues that are currently before the Supreme Court.  Free speech, affirmative action, and government target killings are some of the past issues used for competitions.

Competitors are given two weeks to write a brief, either on their own or with a partner. The brief is an important part of the competition as it is worth thirty percent of their score moving into the quarter final round.  But the brief is more than just thirty percent of your overall score.  When you submit a brief you are in the running for Best Brief Writer, a prestigious and equally important award to the Best Oralist.

After briefs are submitted participants present their argument before “the Court.”  In the first round “the Court” consists of three MCEB members.  Competitors argue both On-Brief (the argument they wrote their brief on) and Off-Brief (the opposing argument). As the rounds progress, competitors are presented with more challenging judges and questions that test their knowledge of the record and their oral advocacy skills.  But don’t let that scare you from competing.  As Administrators our first responsibility is to develop the competitors written and oral skills. We provide constructive feedback after every round and meet with competitors between rounds to coach them and help hone their skills. The competition culminates several weeks later with four finalists arguing their position against a panel of Federal Judges.

From our internal competition we select a group of students to participate in the regional competition that takes place in the spring.  We have two teams, each made up of two oralists and one brief writer.  As with the school competition, each team researches a set of issues, submits a brief and then argues before “the Court.”  Last year our team made it to the semi-final round of the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition.  Members of the 2012 ABA Appellate Advocacy team were the first team to make it to the nationals in many years.  While that fact may be true, it is an honor that we seek to become a tradition at Washington and Lee School of Law.

All of W&L’s Moot Court competitions offer a great deal to the students involved.  The competitions provide an opportunity to not only learn more about the actual practice of law but to learn about yourself in a safe environment. Students are able to practice their skills and try new things without worrying about messing up in front of a client.  They can learn what kind of advocate they are and in what setting they may thrive after graduation.  As with our competition, the other competitions offer the opportunity to practice oral advocacy and writing skills.  In addition to actually participating, students are provided constructive feedback that fosters a sense of learning and growing as a lawyer.  Though there are great advantages to participating in a competition, there is also value in observing the competitions.  First year students, especially, are encouraged to come to the competitions or serve as a witness or bailiff so they can learn more about the competition in preparation for their participation in the future.

One of the great things about participating in the competition is allowing yourself to stretch and grow in ways you didn’t think possible.  Additionally, watching your classmates is a great way to learn.  Aside from the learning opportunities, participation in Moot Court competitions are a lot of fun.

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