“I remember watching Supreme Court Day as a 1L, two years ago on Zoom, and thinking that would be the most exciting thing I could do,” says Iowa Law student Jamie McCarthy. “I went to Professor Ksobiech with all kinds of enthusiasm and asked, “How do I do that?”
Mary Ksobiech is a professor of Legal Analysis, Writing and Research at Iowa Law, and has an impressive track record of mentoring national moot court teams as a faculty coach. She also plays an integral role on the college's moot court board, contributing her expertise to help students achieve their full potential.
McCarthy attributes her achievement of securing a spot in the competition to the invaluable guidance provided by Professor Ksobiech.
“Professor Ksobiech told me that first I needed to do Appellate Advocacy I in the fall of my second year, make it through to Appellate Advocacy II, the Van Oosterhout-Baskerville Competition in the Spring, and place high enough to be invited. That sounded daunting, but I worked as hard as I could over last year and was lucky enough to earn my spot,” McCarthy recalls.
The Moot Court Program at Iowa Law is an immersive experience designed to help students deepen their understanding of the appellate process. The program is led by legal analysis, writing & research professors and the Moot Court Board.
Starting their first year, students are introduced to the Moot Court Program through a second semester writing course. In this course, they receive a comprehensive introduction to the appellate process, learn how to craft persuasive appellate briefs, and participate in oral arguments judged by their peers. This experience is critical to help students develop a strong understanding of the fundamentals and pave the way for further engagement with the Moot Court Program.
During their second year, students have the opportunity to participate in Appellate Advocacy I (AA1). This course provides a unique and challenging experience to solve an appellate problem without the direct supervision of a professor. Working in pairs, students prepare a brief and engage in oral argumentation, receiving valuable feedback from their peers, professors, and practicing attorneys.
The top advocates from the AAI program are invited to Appellate Advocacy II, where students have another opportunity to sharpen their legal writing and oral advocacy skills. The top advocates from AAII are later invited to participate in one of the three travelling appellate advocacy teams during their third year of law school.
The Moot Court Program not only provides an excellent opportunity for law students to sharpen their writing and oral advocacy skills, but also fosters a supportive learning environment where students can receive constructive feedback.
“Your time at law school provides several avenues for which to receive feedback in preparation for practice,” says Kelsey Demel, current third-year law student and AAI coordinator. “If you are considering a future in litigation, the Moot Court Program is sure to be useful. If not to learn more about appellate advocacy, then at least, simply, to provide yourself with opportunities to increase your confidence in your writing and public speaking skills.”
“Looking back, I learned so much from this experience,” added McCarthy. “The Justices had hard questions, but ones that I felt like I could answer because I understood the theory behind my argument and my partner’s argument. I knew why we were arguing for certain points.”
In addition to improving her legal writing skills, McCarthy says her experiences in Moot Court also boosted her confidence and instilled a sense of motivation for the future.
“When I saw the advocates as a 1L, there was only one woman arguing. She was incredibly talented, and I felt inspired seeing her argue. This year, all four of us argued as the top scorers at the end of the Appellate Advocacy II Tournament, and we got to argue again this past weekend. Supreme Court Day has been going on for almost a hundred years, and we got to be part of that history. I don’t know if there have been four women arguing in the past, so this felt like something I’m proud to be part of,” she says.
Kelly Lynch, an Iowa Law student on the Moot Court Board, also found her experiences with the program to be extremely beneficial.
“The moot court program is an excellent way to get real life appellate experience alongside your peers, she says. “It is unique in the sense that the program is almost entirely student run. Eight three 3Ls that make up the Moot Court Board work from the beginning of the summer until March to put together all three programs from start to finish. Furthermore, it provides student advocates experience with practitioners and real-life judges who provide excellent feedback to help students improve their writing and oral advocacy skills.”
Iowa Law's Supreme Court Day (SCD) is also a unique opportunity for law students to gain invaluable appellate experience in a real-world setting. Organized by the Moot Court Board and presided over by a current 3L, the event challenges students to craft a compelling brief and deliver persuasive oral arguments.
“When SCD finally arrived, it was very nerve racking, but it was also very rewarding. Being able to argue in front of the Iowa Supreme Court is a once in a lifetime experience. And being able to do it with the support of my classmates, the Moot Court Board, the faculty, the dean, our coach, Professor Ksobiech, and my family was something I will remember for the rest of my life,” says Lynch.
In the spring, students compete in the Jessup International and Van Oosterhout Baskerville (VOB) and Domestic moot court competitions. The top six advocates from VOB will form the National Moot Court Team in the fall semester and the top two advocates and top two oralists are later invited to participate in Iowa Law’s annual Iowa Supreme Court Day.
The top advocates in the Jessup competition this spring were Cassie Kilby, Logan Stuart, Hazel Ward and Elena Hildebrandt. The VOB finalist included Isabelle Breitfelder, Kameron Reed, Avery Epstein, and Jonathan Parts. The College of Law looks forward to watching the top advocates compete this fall and celebrating the ongoing success of the Moot Court Program.
The Moot Court Program is grateful for the alumni and friends who generously donated their time to serve as judges in our moot court competitions. Thank you!
2023 Van Oosterhout Baskerville Judges
- Hon. Gina Badding (04JD), Iowa Court of Appeals
- Hon. Mary Chicchelly (92JD), Iowa Court of Appeals
- Hon. Susan Crawford (94JD), Dane County (WI) Circuit Court
- Hon. Toya Harvey (95JD), Circuit Court Cook County
- Hon. Alfredo Maldonado (96JD), Circuit Court Cook County
- Hon. Michael Scudder, US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
2023 Jessup Judges
- Abby Bartine (13JD)
- Luke Dawson (14JD)
- Weijing Wu (15JD)
- Nick Zhan (10LLM)