Imagine after a well-researched opening statement, a judge offers an attorney feedback on posture, cadence, and chosen evidence.
In professional practice, that scenario is quite unlikely. But in the world of moot court—an extracurricular activity that simulates real courtroom proceedings—it’s not all that far-fetched.
Moot court programs give students a chance to find their footing as attorneys with intensive, practical training in several areas. In Albany Law School’s Anthony V. Cardona '70 Moot Court Program, students can participate in mock trial, litigation, appellate advocacy, arbitration, negotiation, or client counseling.
Albany Law’s program also allows students to compete in some of the region’s, the nation’s, and the world’s most prestigious competitions.
What are the other benefits? We spoke with some moot court superstars to find out.
1. Practice Makes Perfect
Moot court participants have a unique opportunity to have their skills—writing, public speaking, negotiating, and more—observed and critiqued in real-time by acting judges and practicing lawyers.
“It’s valuable because they get to practice in this setting where they get feedback from very well-respected judges and alumni before they go out in the real world and do it—that’s extremely valuable,” said Associate Dean for Student Affairs Rosemary Queenan, who serves as the group’s faculty advisor.
Mark Sonders ’73, a civil litigation attorney with E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy, returns to campus often to help moot court students fine-tune their skills. Once students have a case prepared, they demonstrate it in front of a panel of legal professionals who cut in sporadically to offer valuable critiques.
“They get feedback—other than a jury telling them yes or no at the end of a case,” said Sonders, who has assisted with preparing students for the New York State Bar Association’s Judith S. Kaye Arbitration Competition for the past several years. In 2018, the team won second place; one of the students, Kieran Murphy ‘20, won the Judith S. Kaye Advocate Award. Last year, the team was recognized for excellent witness preparation.
2. Finding Your Way
In many traditional internships, students can observe lawyers in action while acquiring basic experience preparing and reviewing cases. Moot court allows students to dig right in and do the work themselves.
“It addresses many of the foundational skills you need as a lawyer. Effective communication—orally and in writing—negotiation skills, advocacy skills,” Dean Queenan said.
The program’s design also allows students to find their style and groove. Moot court offers a perfect setting to figure out an arguing style, a certain writing skillset, and more.
For Kieran Murphy ’20, the executive director of Albany Law’s moot court board, the program helped him find his path as a litigator. He came into law school with a neuroscience and economics degree from SUNY Binghamton, so the law was a new frontier.
“I had no exposure to the legal world whatsoever. I think moot court helped me put things in perspective in terms of what I wanted to do for the rest of my career,” he said.
3. Expanding Your Horizons
For Anisha Ghosh ’20, serving as the director of competitions has been an opportunity to get involved at Albany Law School right from the start. Moot court piqued her interest on Accepted Students Day and she never looked back.
“These are the experiences that people are really going to remember. There’s no consequence; there’s not money on the table for a client. You’re really getting to practice these skills and receiving feedback from judges who want to help,” Ghosh said.
Students acquire tremendous experience in analysis, writing, litigation, and research. And then there are the unparalleled networking and professional-growth opportunities.
Ghosh noted that 1Ls can feel out different areas of the program before considering joining the board or getting involved in a more focused area.
“Take advantage of these opportunities. This is the only time you’re going to get these trial runs with such good, constructive feedback. It’s going to make you more comfortable when you’re actually out there in the field,” she said.
4. Friendships for Life
Moot court also offers a chance to expand your social network. Traveling to competitions and collaborating on the same problem brings budding friendships to the surface. It’s a chance to learn collaboration skills as well—another crucial trait of a discerning attorney.
“The friends that you make along the way, it’s really something special. We all have a common goal in mind and we’re all able to work with each other to achieve that goal,” Murphy said. “You meet people you might not otherwise interact with—and now they’re some of my best friends.”
5. Nationwide Pride
Moot court competitions give participants a chance to represent Albany Law School on a larger scale.
“We’re independent, we’re small, and we pride ourselves on that,” Murphy said of Albany Law. “But it’s nice that the moot court program is able to emulate the values that we as a law school preach all of the time—on a national scale.”
He noted that being able to compete at the same level as some top-tier law schools is not only a great experience but a chance to learn humility and confidence simultaneously.
“We know that what we’re doing here—we’re doing it right,” Murphy said. “That kind of confirmation and validation on a national scale is something we’re really proud to bring back to the law school.”
Visit the Anthony V. Cardona '70 Moot Court Program’s website for more information on specific competitions and programs.