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A "Moot Point" About Pre-Law

Updated: Apr 29

V. Peter Pitts, M.A.

Thinking about a career in Law?

There is no single undergraduate major that is best for a Pre-Law student. Students should major in what they love and what they might do for a living if law school never happens for them. One suggestion in terms of a class to make sure you take would be Philosophy or Logic. The LSAT exam is, after all, largely a series of logic tests. Math helps with this too, but the major is completely up to you.

So, after your undergraduate years, what are the most important things, on an applicant’s resume, to impress the Law School’s admissions committee? Hint: it’s not the name of the college you attended. It’s not where you go—it’s what you did.

[As a proponent of small colleges, I might add that it is very possible, at small colleges, for all six of the following to be on your resume!]

A few suggestions that will make your application stand out:

  • Leadership positions

  • Study abroad

  • Internships

  • Published research and presentations

  • Speech & debate experience and successes

  • Moot Court or Mock Trial experience and successes

So What is Moot Court? How does it differ from Mock Trial? The college where I worked prior to my retirement, Monmouth College in Illinois, has a strong Moot Court program, so I asked one of our alums to help me answer these questions.

From my upcoming book Cool Stuff at Small Colleges:

The following was written by Brad Nahrstadt, who is Monmouth College alum and active participant in the Moot Court Program. Brad is a lawyer (retired) and author. I first asked him for the difference between a Mock Trial Program and a Moot Court Competition:

“Usually a mock trial program gives participants the opportunity to try a case. They are given a fact pattern, various exhibits, and are then tasked with actually trying the case to a verdict—usually in front of a jury composed of other students. A moot court competition is an appellate exercise. The case has already been tried and in moot court you are arguing an appeal in front of a judge or a panel of judges.

I then asked him to tell the reader about the Monmouth Moot Court Program:

“There are very few colleges or universities in the country that have a moot court program. For most students, the first and only time they get experience arguing cases in front of a judge or panel of judges is when they attend law school.

“Moot court at the college level gives students who are interested in a career in law an opportunity to practice the skills they will need to be successful in the practice of law. We use fictional cases that are all based on real cases that have been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court or another federal appeals court. Students have to digest the case, understand the legal rationale behind each side’s position and formulate arguments that will persuade the court to rule in their client’s favor. They have the opportunity to draft a legal brief in support of their arguments. Then they get to stand before a judge or a panel of judges and defend their position. This is as close to real appellate advocacy as we can make it. That is an invaluable opportunity. For most of the students it reinforces that they do want to go to law school; for a few it makes them re-evaluate their plans.

“Here’s maybe the best part of the MC Moot Court competition. We give cash prizes! The person who writes the best brief gets a cash prize and the four students who advance to the final round of the competition get cash prizes! Each year we are very impressed with the preparation, the written work product and the oral advocacy of our students. We’ve been doing the moot court competition for 13 years and we have had more than one hundred students participate—many of them have gone on to law school and have told us that the moot court competition provided them with skills that they used once they got to law school.”—Brad Nahrstadt, Monmouth College ‘89, Retired Lawyer and National Grand President of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Thank you Brad!

So which is better, Moot Court or Mock Trial? Since 90% of lawyers do not end up in courtrooms (with juries), many Law schools give a slight edge to Moot Court because it involves more critical thinking, but both are great for your resume.

The following small colleges (all under 3,500 students) have a Moot Court program. I have listed them from least expensive (after merit) to most expensive. Those with an asterisk have both Moot Court and Mock Trial programs.

Berea College (KY)

Regent University (VA)

Monmouth College (IL)

Aquinas College (MI)

Bridgewater College (VA)

Loras College (IA)

Stetson University (FL)*

Patrick Henry College (VA)*

Belmont Abbey (NC)

Marietta College (OH)

Wabash College (IN)

University of Findlay (OH)

Howard Payne University (TX)*

Meredith College (NC)

Benedictine University (IL)

Ohio Wesleyan University (OH)

Colorado Christian University (CO)

Benedictine College (KS)

Lipscomb University (TN)*

The College of Wooster (OH)

Morehouse College (GA)

Palm Beach Atlantic University (FL)*

University of Dubuque (IA)

Wheaton College (IL)*

Williams College (MA)*

Sewanee: University of the South (TN)

Macalester College (MN)*

Willamette University (OR)

College of the Holy Cross (MA)

[There are 70 other, larger, colleges and universities that have Moot Court programs too]

Check out other colleges that have Moot Court or Mock Trial programs at:

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