Michigan State University College of Law’s Moot Court program soared to the top this year.
After finishing 20th in the nation during the 2018-2019 school year, the program moved up the ranks in the 2019-2020 school year despite the COVID-19 pandemic to become the No. 1 Moot Court program, according to the University of Houston Law Center’s Blakely Advocacy Institute.
The Moot Court competitions required students to prepare appellate briefs and argue legal issues before federal circuit court judges.
The program had various teams that competed against national law school teams across the country tackling various sectors of law, including appellate advocacy, trademark law, indigenous law, worker’s compensation law, constitutional law, the First Amendment and immigration law.
The MSU teams participated in 13 competitions across the country, reaching the quarterfinals in 10 of the 13, making it to the finals five times and earning the Best Brief Award at four different competitions, according to the law school.
“I had a team of three outstanding women who made the semifinals and receive a Best Brief Award at the Billings Con Law Competition in the fall of 2019,” said Jennifer Copland, director of Michigan State’s moot court program. “They then competed together at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) regional competition in Oklahoma City in March 2020 and went undefeated, with the oralists getting first and third place at regionals. That same team got the Best Brief Award at nationals, which was the only award given out at ABA this year after nationals were cancelled. That team was well-positioned to win ABA nationals. And there were others, of course. Our Trademark and National Native American Law Students Association teams both made the final round at national competitions and we not only won the New York University Immigration Competition but also had a best brief award there.”
While some of the competitions were in-person, but when the pandemic hit some of the events, such as those for trademark and patent law, were held virtually. The patent law Moot Court team made the finals of regional rounds and were quarterfinalists at nationals.
After totaling all the points earned at various Moot Court competitions during 2019-20 academic year, MSU’s law school was crowned the No. 1 Moot Court program in the country.
“I think there are a few reasons for our particularly strong success, and they were not really connected to the pandemic,” Copland said. “At the time our law college switched to a virtual format and competitions started to cancel, we were ranked somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5, and we had some particularly strong teams left to compete so I honestly believe we could have had the No. 1 ranking even without the changes brought about by the pandemic and quarantines.”
For the 2018-19 school year, the program was ranked 20th in part because of some “technical point deductions,” Copland said. In the 2017-18 school year, the program was ranked No. 17 and in 2016-17 it came in at the No. 9 spot nationally.
While Copland disagreed with the point deductions from last year, she said for the first time last fall, students were required to take a Moot Court competition class taught by her as a prerequisite to competing.
“This year’s successes reflect the outstanding abilities and hard work of our students,” said Melanie B. Jacobs, interim dean of MSU College of Law. “The ranking is a testament to each team member’s countless hours of preparation and to the great support from their faculty and alumni coaches. I’m very proud of all our competitors and so impressed with their resilience and drive to succeed under remarkably challenging circumstances.”