What Is Moot Court?

Explaining Moot Court and Why You Should Join

Iraqi Students Attend Moot Court Competition For First Time
Students in a moot court. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Moot court is a term you may have read about or heard of in your research on law schools. You can tell from the name that a courtroom is somehow involved, right? But what is moot court exactly and why would you want this on your resume?

What Is Moot Court?

Moot courts have been around since the late 1700s. They're a law school activity and competition during which students participate in preparing and arguing cases in front of judges.

The case and sides are selected beforehand, and students are given a set amount of time to prepare for the eventual trial.

Moot court involves appellate cases as opposed to those at the trial level, which are often called "mock trials." Moot court experience on a resume is typically considered to be more stellar than mock trial experience, although mock trial experience is better than none. The judges are usually law professors and attorneys from the community, but sometimes they're actually members of the judiciary.

Students can join moot court in their first, second or third years of law school, depending on the school. The process for selecting moot court members varies at different schools. Competition is quite fierce to join at some schools, especially those that regularly send winning teams to national moot court competitions.

Moot court members research their respective sides, write appellate briefs and present oral arguments in front of the judges.

Oral argument is typically the only chance an attorney has in an appellate court to verbally argue his case in person to a panel of judges, so moot court can be a great proving ground. Judges are free to ask questions at any time during the presentation, and students must respond accordingly. A profound understanding of the facts of the case, the students' arguments and their opponents' arguments are required.

Why Should I Join Moot Court?

Legal employers, particularly large law firms, love students who have participated in moot court. Why? Because they've already spent many hours perfecting the analytical, research and writing skills that practicing attorneys must have. When you have moot court on your resume, a prospective employer knows that you've been learning to form and communicate legal arguments for a year or more. If you've already spent a lot of time in law school on these tasks, that's less time the firm will have to invest in training you and more time you can spend practicing law.

Even if you're not thinking of a job at a large firm,​ a moot court can be quite useful. You'll become increasingly more comfortable formulating arguments and expressing them in front of judges, essential skills for any attorney. If you feel that your public speaking skills need some work, moot court is a great place to hone them.

On a more personal level, participating in moot court can also provide a unique bonding experience for you and your team and give you a mini-support system during law school.