Moot Court competitions focus on appellate advocacy, where a decision has been rendered in a lower court that is subsequently appealed. All Baylor Law students are required to participate in one of two Harvey M. Richey Moot Court Society moot court competitions at the end of their first year. Appreciating the value of the experience, many upper-quarter students choose to compete a second, and even a third time.
Each team of two competitors writes a brief, then goes on to complete four rounds of oral arguments. The top 16 teams are awarded the distinction of “barrister,” and move into the final rounds of competition. Barristers, along with full-time faculty, judge the final oral arguments. Prize money is awarded to the top teams, outstanding speakers and competitors who wrote the best briefs.
While most law schools offer moot court competitions, they typically end after one or two rounds. The rigor required to professionally argue and sustain a case through seven or eight rounds gives Baylor Law students a far more immersive and richer experience in appellate advocacy.
Mock Trial competitions focus on trial advocacy, testing a lawyer’s ability to try a case with witnesses (both cross and direct) and opening and closing through to final verdict. As part of Baylor Law’s third-year Practice Court program, students participate in the Bob and Karen Wortham “Mad Dog” Practice Court Competition, a weeklong contest that kicks off the beginning of the second quarter of Practice Court.
Unlike other Practice Court advocacy exercises that are conducted in teams of two, the Mad Dog competition pits student against student to determine the advocate judged to have the best courtroom skills. The winner receives a cash prize of $3,000, along with an 18-inch statuette of Matt “Mad Dog” Dawson, the legendary Baylor Law professor who initiated the tradition of mini-trial competitions while serving as director of Baylor Law’s nationally recognized Practice Court. The runner-up receives $1,000, with semifinalists earning $500 each.
Heralded as one of the quintessential tests of law school trial advocacy, students who emerge victorious in the Mad Dog competition often go on to become legends among their Baylor Lawyer peers, building on the experience to forge careers as accomplished and successful advocates.
Client Counseling competitions offer students the opportunity to compete based on additional aspects of what it takes to be a lawyer—in this case, their ability to engage with their client. Second and third year students may choose to participate in the annual Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee Intra-scholastic Client Counseling Competition.
Here, students are judged on their ability to establish a rapport with a new client with an undisclosed “problem,” portrayed by an actor who has been provided a set of “facts.” Students proceed to ferret out the relevant facts of the case, identify legal and non-legal courses of action consistent with the client’s objectives, effectively communicate those options to their client, and address any questions or concerns. The judges—two attorneys and a counselor (therapist, social worker, etc.)—advise competitors and provide valuable feedback, with top teams progressing to the semifinal and final rounds.
The competitions also prepare students for the discussion of practical issues, such as confidentiality, fee arrangements, engagement letters, conflicts of interest, professional and ethical conduct, general litigation procedures and methods of alternative dispute resolution. Students come away with insights that impact not only the practice of law, but the skill sets necessary to run a successful law practice.
The Ultimate Writer legal writing competition is a unique Baylor-sponsored competition that seeks to identify and reward students who excel in the skill of written legal advocacy. Unlike most legal writing competitions, Ultimate Writer is not a competition based on essays on a topic of the student’s choosing. Instead, Ultimate Writer seeks to provide competitors with a real-world challenge in the form of an assignment a young attorney might receive in the working world. The competition is open to all levels of law students. Entries are blind-judged by a panel of judges, who select the top ten entries, then re-judged by guest judges to reach the final ranking. The top three winners receive a significant cash prize. In addition, each of the top three finishers typically are eligible to interview for a clerkship or internship with a prominent firm or court. The goal is to provide not only an incentive to write well, but also opportunities for employment for talented legal writers. Baylor Law is justifiably proud of this unusual legal writing competition.