After spending eight hours a day for a week preparing, SVSU’s moot court team traveled to Wiggins, Mississippi, ready to take on the national competition.
“We spent hours, sometimes until 5 a.m., making sure our legal citations were correct and our arguments were coherent,” said Justin Weller, a political science junior.
Weller was part of one of three teams that made it to nationals this year.
Along with partner Lindsey Mead, an English senior, they made SVSU history by winning the National Appellate Brief Writing Competition, coming in fourth out of 124 teams.
Each team had a different way to prepare, but all agreed that practicing was the most important part.
“Practice is the best thing anyone can do to prepare for a competition,” said Justine Brabaw, a political science junior. “I would use any spare moment to give my argument, read case law or look at flashcards in hopes of bettering myself for this competition.”
Compared to previous years, having more practice time and more teams to help helped the SVSU teams make it farther.
“This year, we qualified three teams for nationals,” Mead said. “In my three years of competing, that was the most teams qualified. Therefore, our prep got adjusted to be more wide scale. We could bounce ideas off one another, scrimmage and really dive into our cases deeper.”
Brabaw said she had to calm her nerves before a competition.
“If the judges aren’t in the room when I get there, I’ll run through part of my argument to warm up my voice and test my volume in the room,” Brabaw said. “This usually calms my nerves before competing because anything beyond that is outside of my control.”
The biggest part of their success was being able to work well with their teammates, Mead said.
“You can catch me squeezing Justin’s hand, my co-counsel and best friend, under the table before we compete,” Mead said. “I have the utmost faith in him. He is an incredible speaker and moot court student. We really are a team, and I would not have changed that dynamic for anything.”
Aside from preparing with their teams right before a competition, the mooters get together and sing to help warm up their voices.
“We all warm up our voices with songs such as Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ and the Backstreet Boy’s ‘Everybody,’” Brabaw said.
Erik Byron, a political science senior, said the experience taught him how to understand what different people expect.
“I have learned that it is very important to understand how different people want different things,” Byron said. “If you want to succeed, you need to understand what that particular person you’re trying to convince wants out of you.”
Mead offered some advice to future students and students considering joining moot court.
“(You) are absolutely capable of getting something really valuable out of this class,” Mead said. “Whether that be personal confidence and strength or affirmation that law is or is not for (you), it is so worth experimenting with and growing in.”