By Thomas W. Blessing, Massillamany Jeter & Carson
A few months after a criminal appeal I was handling had been fully briefed, the Court of Appeals set it for oral argument. Having done a few oral arguments, I knew how much work is involved preparing and thought it would be a good idea to practice with the lawyers in my office.
Fortunately, one of my partners told me about the IndyBar Appellate Institute’s moot court program. I had never heard of it but thought it would be a great way to have a “dress rehearsal” for the real thing. I applied, my case was accepted and the moot court was scheduled for about a week before my oral argument.
Just standing at a podium in a courtroom before three lawyers and practicing my presentation helped me get in the right mindset, but answering their questions forced me to think on my feet, gave me ideas which I hadn’t thought of and helped me anticipate things that might come up.
Afterward, the panel critiqued my performance and offered helpful suggestions on style, timing and content. Based on their feedback, I made several changes to my outline. As it turned out, one of the volunteer moot court “judges” had clerked for one of the real judges, which brought a nice perspective to the exercise. Our argument was successful and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's ruling.
This experience was extremely helpful and I felt more confident afterward—I only wish the program had existed when I was a new attorney. If your case is set for oral argument, I encourage you to take advantage of this terrific program!
Get information on applying to moot your argument or serving as a volunteer judge for the Indiana Appellate Institute here.
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