Moot court tests pre-law ambitions

Mikaela Slade

Sophomores NoahLani Litwinsella and Yu Jian Wang competed in a national moot court competition in Anaheim, Calif. this November, presenting on case law disputes.

During Thanksgiving break Litwinsella and Wang flew out to Anaheim, California to participate in the American Collegiate Moot Court Association competition. Every year, moot trial cases are released in the spring. Competitors spend months studying and memorizing the evidence, before going before real judges and attorneys at competitions in November.

The case law disputes used in competitions are argued by referring to the outcomes of former cases, rather than the testimony of witnesses. This year’s case incorporated two different legal questions, each pertained to a different amendment. The first case question posed was about the rights that schools had under the First Amendment, and the second was about whether on not the Fair Education Act violated the Fifth Amendment.

“Moot court taps into some of the core Whitman educational goals, which are to help students learn to develop evidence-based points of view and defend them through crisp writing and compelling speech,” Noah Leavitt, the Associate Dean of Student Engagement and one of the pre-law advisors on campus. “Thus, if a student really enjoys certain elements of their academic work such as debating ideas in class or writing complex papers, they may also enjoy participating and competing in moot court even if they don’t want to become a lawyer.”

According to Litwinsella, Whitman does not have many activities for students interested in law, and the American Collegiate Moot Court Association is a great opportunity to get experience in the legal world.

“I did mock trial for three years in high school and coming to Whitman, that was one thing that was kind of a bummer because we don’t have a mock trial team. I definitely have aspirations to pursue a career in law, so that was a really cool opportunity to do moot court,” said Litwinsella.

Wang began doing Mock Trial when he was in high school in China, taking on cases in China and hosting these Mock Trials within his school, as well as reading books on American Law and analysis of American Cases. One of the mock trials that he participated in on Freedom of Speech versus censorship inspired him to take in interest in a career in law.

When he came to Whitman he was interested in participating in legal proceedings, and after he met Litwinsella, they began working together and competing as a team in Moot Court competitions.

“This is my first time in Mock Trial in the United States, so I think it is pretty cool because during the competition you get questioned by the real judges, legal professors or real attorneys,” said Wang

Whitman’s Moot Court is completely student based and currently has no staff or faculty advisors. It was formed by Litwinsella, a year ago with Avery Miller, a student who left Whitman; however, the club does have a listserve that students can join and get updates from.

“On campus, moot court is a great tool — it makes a very strong law school application. Most of these competitions have so much preparation that go into them, you always hear the judges saying that the competitors are doing better than most practicing attorneys would,” said Litwinsella. “It’s silly because real attorneys get a much smaller window of time to actually work on these cases.”

There are also other opportunities that Whitman has in regard to legal issues these include ASWC’s oversight committee, the Council of Student Affairs, and Model United Nations.

“Moot court is a highly relevant experience to have for students who are interested in lawyering or attending law school. The process of mastering case law, preparing an argument to support a particular outcome based on precedent, and then defending that argument through the energized back and forth with judges is similar to what attorneys do in court,” said Leavitt.