Our University Scholars Program (USP) sent four Moot Court teams to Princeton University the last weekend of April. Congratulations to three of the teams, who made it to the top eight out of a total of 72 teams!

USP Seniors, Jake A. and Hunter S. won 1st place, and Gaea L. and Julie Z. won 3rd place. Hunter S. and Hannah P. were recognized as “top attorneys”; Hannah P. and Emily S. were undefeated, but were bumped by mistake on a ballot error. But don’t worry – they will be back next year to claim their trophy!

This was a competition that stimulated an appellate supreme court case. During the course of the two days’ students competed against other pairs of students from some of the best schools in the country. This included teams from New Hampshire, California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Florida.

Two of our PA Leadership teams made it to the semi-finals and were pitted against each other. It was almost a USP versus USP in the final match!
The final round featured 9 judges, three of whom are prominent attorneys in New Jersey and six actual judges. Some of them were retired, who served on the New Jersey Superior & even Supreme Court. The students used actual Supreme Court decision laws as well as the U.S. Constitution to make arguments about these fictional cases.

One of the most challenging concepts for the students was from round to round, they had to argue one side of the case and win every time. Many of the senior Moot Court members will be graduating this year. We asked student Gaea L. to share some of her reasons for competing in Moot Court, as well as sharing her secrets to her success.

Q: What does moot court mean to you?
A: “Moot Court was a trans-formative part of my high school experience. Moot Trial taught me a lot about confidence and how to work as a team. Also, Moot Court taught me how to think like a lawyer. It’s a skill you need to have to even understand what the case packet is saying most of the time. Moot Court was the reason I fell in love with Princeton.”

Q: What is the secret of our success? How do you prepare as well as what kinds of technology did you use to connect with your teammate?
A: “In order to succeed you need to find the right partner honestly. Like you need a partner who is just as committed to winning as you are, but also doesn’t hold your mistakes and failures against you. Julia and I had some really great rounds, we also had some bad ones. You need a partner who will know when you’re drawing a blank and will step in and say something even if it’s irrelevant to give you time to think. You need a partner who is able to recognize your failures mid-round and help you out. But will forget about it when the round is done. You both need to read all the cases and come up with your own case theory. Then you both need to be willing to compromise on it when combining the two theories into one. Also you need a partner who is willing to tell you when they don’t think an idea of yours works, and you need to be willing to do the same for them. Long story short, you need to work equally hard on the case.There is no slacking off because if one person is carrying the case, the judge will be able to tell and will dock you points. Don’t be afraid of diversity of thought, embrace it.”

Q: How does Moot Court fit with University Scholars?
A: “In order to succeed at Moot Court, you need to have something that a lot of University Scholars students struggle with. Public speaking skills. You need to have the ability to take your complicated jumble of thoughts surrounding an issue and frame them in a coherent way that someone will be able to understand. Moot Court forces you to think through that process, to slow down and plan things out ahead of time… it forces you to make an argument you’re proud of that you can be confident in. And, it forces you to find the security in yourself so that you will be able to deliver it. I highly recommend Moot Court. It is exhausting, it is a ton of hard work, it can be frustrating at times. But at the end of the day it was a transformative experience with memories that I will cherish forever.”

We would like to say one last congratulations to our USP students and Gaea for letting us take the time to interview her on her experience at Moot Court. We would also like to share a special thank you to all the parents, as well as Evan P. and Julie K. for their help in the competition! Keep up the great work, Scholars!