Last week I competed in the first year moot court competition. It's part of the criminal procedure class, so our problem naturally centered around a search and seizure issue. My partner and I were respondents, and in this case we represented the defendant. I have to say that we both had a great time, strange as that may seem.
Moot court is a competition that is, essentially, a simulation of oral arguments in front of the supreme court. At that point, there has already been a trial and at least one (and sometimes more than one) appeal. Each side (petitioner and respondent) has two "lawyers", each person gives a ten minute "speech" in front of the court. But it's far from a speech because the judges are constantly asking questions. My partner and I each prepared about ten minutes worth of material, and each of us maybe got through 1 or 2 minutes. The rest of the time we were answering questions from the judging panel. There is no interaction between the two competing teams, the interaction is with the court.
Good judges will ask pertinent questions, meaning I actually did get to present most of my argument (to the good panels). Bad judges will ask ridiculous questions, and sometimes even be rude. Those are really the hardest ones to deal with because the entire time I had to be deferential to the court, and still respond quickly (even curtly) to irrelevant questions. I have a friend (an old debater - you know who you are if you're reading this) who would go nuts watching the "yes your honor" and "no your honor" in response to some of the questions I was getting. For those who have done any academic debate, moot court is like a ten minute cross examination period without the combat - that is, the judges ALWAYS have the upper hand, and the lawyer has to be crafty in response. I must say, in retrospect, that it was far more fun than debate because it's so much more challenging.
We did well. Out of 30+ teams my partner and I made the quarterfinals, and were both pre-selected for early entry into the moot court program. That's essentially step-one if I want to compete on the national team (which, of course, I do). I'll be taking the class next term, so perhaps there will be more to blog about after all (heh heh).
So. . . stay tuned . . .