Monday, November 21, 2016
To Wooster College Friday for the American Moot Court Association's Regional Tournament. Buffalo State has entered teams for the past four years, but two years ago we were snowed in. Last year was the first time I went with the team. We've been cannon fodder in the past, but this year we made it out of the preliminary rounds and into the Sweet 16- the furthest a Buff State team has gone. Mad props to the students, who worked damn hard and got better every time they stood up. I feel like we cracked the code on this thing, and it is interesting. In the legal culture I practice in appellate argument is always before a hot bench: typically I get my name out, and then the questions start. This is how we've been preparing our students, (and how I preside as a moot court judge) but when I watched the Ohio lawyers preside in the knock-out round what I saw was that they wouldn't ask the first question until the arguments were two or even three minutes in. They also seemed to put a great deal of weight on the etiquette of the process, something that we'd drilled on extensively. In other words, the emphasis was more on moot court style than on actual legal substance, although, in fairness, the legal arguments have to be solid in order to get anywhere. They announce what schools will advance in a large lecture hall at the conclusion of the first three rounds. When they announced the bottom seed I thought, "Well, that's that," but we were, it turned out, a middle seed, and when they called our name I was indecorous and let out a whoop. Most of the schools competing bring several teams, and most of those teams are composed of students for whom appellate advocacy is course offered for credit, in addition to an extra curricular activity. Their students have done this thing many times, and although they are keyed up they aren't actually nervous in the way that you'd think of being nervous. A lot of what our coaching consists of is getting our students used to standing up and thinking on their feet, and in order to get there they need to be used to conducting a high level intellectual conversation without being intimidated. It is a fairly rarefied and esoteric skill, and our Buffalo State students were on it. I'm incredibly proud of them.