Moot Court Fears

The Socratic method can be a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing when you have lively discussion and listen to people ask questions you may also have but are too scared to articulate or cannot even form words coherently to ask. The curse is when you freeze up with anxiety or you have no idea what is going on. Even if you love the spotlight, and admittedly sometimes I do love the spotlight, being called on is not the ideal spotlight. 60+ people looking at you with a variety of expressions ranging from “you poor thing” to “OMG, did you even read the materials?”

Well, Moot Court oral arguments are sort of like that, except you are in a room with only six people, and instead of one professor grilling you, you have three “judges” (mix of students and guests) staring at you. If you want to be a litigator or prosecutor, you’ll find Moot Court quite helpful because it does require thinking on your feet, being prepared for questions about your issues, and composure. If you are like me and you will avoid the courtroom like the plague, it is not so much a fun experience.

A large portion of Moot Court is the time and the unknown factor. You may receive a panel of judges who hardly ask any questions (this is known as a “cold” bench) or you will receive a panel like mine, and it is a “hot” bench. A hot bench means the judges fire questions rapidly at you and do not give you an opportunity to actually just spit out your argument and sit down. It is pretty scary. You are standing for a full 15 minutes and being grilled, but once it is over, it is not the worst experience. You build it up in your head to be so much more stressful than it really is.

My biggest piece of advice (now that I am on the other side and much wiser for it) is to relinquish the fear of “sounding stupid” and looking foolish. Feel free to apply that advice to not just Moot Court but also the Socratic method. See what I did there? There is a method to my madness. Law school is really about being brave enough to be wrong and sound wrong because you need to understand how you are wrong in order to learn more about yourself and the subjects. When you relinquish this fear of looking foolish or sounding dumb, you can focus on figuring out the material and how to tackle it.

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