Developing Skill in Written Advocacy Through a Vibrant Moot Court Program

Professor Jeff Kirchmeier

Professor Jeff Kirchmeier directs CUNY's Moot Court, which provides appellate brief writing and oral advocacy experience to students entering their second and third years of law school.

All CUNY students interested in joining Moot Court participate in the annual Moot Court Summer Competition/Advocacy Training Program for brief writing and oral advocacy, which culminates in an intramural competition in early September. Working in teams of two, students are given a case record and must prepare a substantial appellate brief based upon their own research. As students work on the briefs, they are invited to attend workshops on brief writing, citation practice, and research skills.

After each team submits its appellate brief in late summer, the students argue the issues before a panel of judges at the all-day competition at the beginning of the fall semester. Students learn how to address the strengths and weaknesses in their legal analysis as they are required to argue both sides of the issues as both petitioner and as respondent before judges that consist of faculty, alums, and other attorneys. After the competition, they are given written feedback on their briefs from Professor Kirchmeier and two additional faculty graders. Students who qualify from this competition to become members of Moot Court and who wish to participate in an external competition are then required to revise their Summer Competition brief based on this feedback.

Members who enter an external competition in a team of two or three students write a substantial appellate brief for the competition, and then they participate in a large number of rigorous oral argument practices to tune their arguments and to prepare for the oral argument portion of the competition against students from other schools. After the oral arguments, students rewrite their competition briefs for academic credit, incorporating written feedback they receive from Professor Kirchmeier on the brief as well as insights gained from their oral advocacy experience.

This opportunity for a rigorous experience in persuasive writing and oral advocacy develops students' skills in framing and supporting legal arguments, and it highlights the ways in which the oral argument experience sharpens skills in written advocacy.