Resume Booster

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Public, Student Contributor

Pen and ink caricature showing a lawyer arguing very strenuously while three judges are sitting at the bench, napping.While I was working into the evening on the third floor of Eckstein Hall, a friend stopped to catch up.  On the table in front of me were piles of handwritten notes, highlighted cases, outlined arguments, and cheat-sheets, organized by Petitioner or Respondent.  Color-coded flashcards were stacked in the corner. I was surrounded by seven-and-a-half weeks worth of sticky notes. I was a few days away from my moot court competition, and reviewing every single note card’s scribbled phrase, ensuring I was ready for any and all arguments from opposing counsel and questions from the judges.  She gave me a sympathetic look.  “Moot court,” I said.

She asked if I felt it was all worth it, for “just a resume booster.”

I looked at everything in front of me.  Seven-and-a-half weeks of color-coded chaos.  The disorganization reflected my anxiety.  But all of it also reflected an extraordinary amount of work and number of hours mastering an area of the law that just seven weeks ago I found foreign and intimidating.  I smiled.  Was it all worth it?

“Absolutely.”

I am a shameless moot court enthusiast.  I have competed in moot courts and mock trials since I was in middle school, and have always sung their praises.  For those planning to go into litigation, moot court develops those skills essential for success.  It allows soon-to-be lawyers to hone their legal research, writing, and oral advocacy skills in a setting more like that in practice than most classes offer.  Moot court also allows competitors to develop the ability for quick, critical thinking, as moot court rounds can be won or lost on the ability to completely and clearly, but also concisely, answer the judges’ questions.

Even for those who do not plan on litigating, moot court makes one a better lawyer.  Moot court helps one learn how to better communicate complex legal ideas both in writing and orally.  This is important whether in a public-speaking setting or just working through an issue one-on-one with a client.  Moot court helps build confidence, teamwork, and work ethic, while fostering friendships in preparation for friendly competition.

Am I painting too rosy a picture?  I concede, moot court has undeniable downfalls.  The time and work put in necessary to succeed is great.  The issues on appeal are often purposefully convoluted, and framed on tricky issues that split circuits and legal scholars alike.  The stress of it all tests time management skills, relationships, and sometimes, one’s sanity.

There is a darker side as well: Some argue, with merit, that moot court perpetuates gender bias.  Moot-court advocates counsel that high-pitched voices, a predominately female trait, are annoying, less persuasive, and less credible.[1]

It’s not just the way we sound, either, that is subject to sexist scrutiny: Female competitors often walk a fine line in what is acceptable so far as appearance.  Too feminine is “distracting,” while not feminine enough is “off-putting” and apparently not feminine enough participants are encouraged to “smile more.”[2]  Some schools’ moot court programs require female advocates to wear long hair up and prohibit female advocates from wearing pantsuits.[3]

I have, unfortunately, observed instances of at least what appeared to be higher scrutiny on a female advocate during moot court.  I have been in rounds where female competitors were criticized for having a high-pitched voice, or cautioned not to try to “out alpha-female” a female judge.  I have also, admittedly, felt the effects of this sentiment.  I often overthink what to do with my long blonde hair, and worry it sends a message of unprofessionalism.

However, I am optimistic about the future of female “mooters”.  First, as more women continue entering the world of litigation, those discriminatory views and attitudes will be increasingly challenged.  As the dial moves little by little, those moves will trickle down and be felt by those in the world of moot court.  Second, whatever sexist undertones exist in the world of moot court appear to have had little effect on those in our own program here at Marquette: Of our 2018-2019 3L national moot court competitors, more than half are female.  Not only were there more women than men who made a national moot court team this year, our female competitors are also some of our most talented, as the majority of those invited to compete in our prestigious intramural Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition last year were female.  Additionally, after serving as a bailiff myself for three Appellate Writing and Advocacy oral argument rounds this semester and watching twelve talented female 2L advocates, I am confident our moot court association will continue to have a strong female presence.

There are challenges, but yes, moot court is worth it, for litigators and non-litigators, male and female alike. It poses real issues we may face in practice, both legal and otherwise.  But it is facing (and overcoming) these challenges that make moot court worth it, and much more than just a resume booster.

[1] See e.g., Celia W. Childress, Persuasive Delivery in the Courtroom, 320, 346 (quoted in The Winning Oral Argument, supra note 88, at 21) (“High-pitched voices irritate more people than you can imagine.”); Jean Johnson Spearman, General Communication Skills, in MASTER ADVOCATES’ HANDBOOK 285, 297 (D. Lake Rumsey ed., 1986) (“Some voices are naturally higher pitched than others. If the voice is too high and lacks variety, it can become annoying to your audience.”).

[2] Susie Salmon, Reconstructing the Voice of Authority, 51 Akron L. Rev. 143, 162 (2017).

[3] Id. at 162–63.

 

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