Tips for the 2014 Alva P. Loiselle Moot Court Competition

by Sarah Ricciardi
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photo by Bianca Slota

The 2014 Alva P. Loiselle Moot Court Competition is just around the corner.  The preliminary rounds begin April 2. With only a few weeks until the fun starts, we have compiled a list of pointers to help you out during your preparation. The most important thing to realize is that every section of the January Moot Court session was taught by different instructors with different styles. While you should remember their advice, you should also be aware that their styles will differ from those of the judges in the competition. With that in mind, here are a few tips that have worked for past winners:

  1. Billboards are KEY. Tell the judges what you will be arguing right off the bat. “The decision of the lower court should be affirmed/reversed for the following three reasons: x, y, and z.” Similarly, you should also use a billboard for your rebuttal. “The respondent’s argument is flawed for the following two reasons: x and y.” And then explain your arguments. Billboards are important because the judges will likely interrupt you before you reach all of your points. A billboard will at least let the judges know what your arguments are even if you do not get a chance to explain them all. Even more importantly, have your billboard completely memorized. Do not break eye contact during the first few minutes of your argument. You’re setting a tone – make it a confident one.
  2. Deference to the bench is also crucial. Some competitors may have naturally amiable tones, but many will have to consciously work to appear genuine. While being likeable will not alone win you the competition, appearing abrasive could lose it for you.
  3. ALWAYS answer questions directly. “Yes, your honor.  No, your honor.” Then explain. Do not try to squirm out of it. The judges will notice. You’re not that smooth.

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    photo by Bianca Slota

  4. Moot each other! Ask questions and propose hypotheticals. When you walk into each round, you should know every question that could possibly be asked. No surprises.
  5. Things to avoid: Never say “I” or “my.” Your opinion does not matter.  Just state the facts. You obviously believe them or you wouldn’t be saying them. Do not say “good question.” All of the judges’ questions are good. Do not say “clearly.”  If it is truly clear, the word is unnecessary.
  6. Prepare two conclusions: a short and long version. Memorize both. If you see the “1 minute” sign and you aren’t answering a question – skip to your long conclusion. If you see the “stop” sign while you are answering a question – ask to briefly conclude and then recite your short version. Your last sentence should be a prayer for relief. “For the foregoing reasons, we request that you affirm/reverse the lower court’s decision.”
  7. Remember to have fun! It is a great way to practice your advocating skills and an amazing opportunity to network with members of Connecticut’s legal community.

For those not competing, cheer on your peers. The final round of the competition will be held on Thursday, April 17 in the Davis Courtroom. It’s always a good show!

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photo by Bianca Slota

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