09 November 2004

The Issue Isn't Moot

I spent yesterday evening judging moot court at the law school. (For those who don't know, "moot court" is essentially a mock appeal done in teams of two. First, the team writes a brief for one side in the matter; then they argue in front of a panel of three outsiders who play judge.) The teams generally did well with an extremely difficult matter—by far the most difficult matter I've seen in all the time I've been doing this. What I found disturbing, though, was the way the matter itself was presented to the judging panel. We got a bench brief that appears to have been prepared at NYU (the topics are generally national)—and not by people who understood the law in the area. Fortunately, this set of students hit a panel of judges who were all extraordinarily familiar with the material—a law professor who teaches constitutional law, the permanent law clerk for a federal judge, and a practicing attorney who had actually read the entire record in two of the critical cases.

To say this was a "hot bench" was a bit of an understatement.

In any event, here's a hiss at the people at NYU who prepared that bench brief. Not only was it badly written, but it neglected some critical authority that modifies the meaning of a couple of the cases cited in it. It appears that the students had done a much better job of preparation themselves.

As an aside, though, attorneys dissatisfied with aspects of the profession who do not engage with local law schools are missing an opportunity to influence the profession. And in Illinois, where we have no CLE requirements, there's no excuse for not giving five or six hours a year to the future of the profession. I suppose, on the other hand, that a CLE requirement here would make little sense; it's easier to get a death sentence overturned in this state than it is to exclude a truly bad actor from the profession in a contested ethics proceeding, and a CLE requirement presupposes that the offered sessions are worthwhile.