Moot Court and "Mock Judicial Readings"
"Practice makes perfect." This week my students will practice their oral arguments with moot court board members, with me, and with classmates. Like many students across the nation, they will do so to prepare for their appellate oral argument in front of three practitioner judges. These practitioners, like many others across the nation, volunteer their time to help the students, with whom the practitioners may someday work, hone their oral advocacy skills.
And students are not alone in practicing to prepare for an oral presentation. Appellate attorneys across the nation routinely hold moot court to prepare for oral argument. Trial attorneys spend large sums to practice in front of arbitrators.
Most of these students and attorneys realize, however, that their written work product is often as, if not more, important than their oral advocacy. Why then do we not hold "mock judicial readings"? This is the question Bryan Garner poses in his essay, Debriefing Your Briefs (adapted from Winning Brief (2d ed. 2004)).
He offers an innovative method to test a brief, and it could certainly be adapted to test other types of legal writing. You hire five attorneys for two hours of time to meet in a "focus group" about a week before the brief is due. A neutral moderator should run the focus group while the brief writer observes. The attorneys play "the role of appellate judges." They first read a final version of the appellant's brief for fifteen minutes. The moderator and the attorneys then discuss the brief and the attorney's impressions of the case for fifteen minutes. They read the appellant's brief for ten more minutes, and discuss for ten more minutes. The same process is repeated with a final version of the appellee's brief. (If you represent the appellant, you will have to prepare an appellee's brief to test your own brief by this method.) The neutral moderator then asks "each participant to say how he or she would vote in the case and to explain why."
What a great idea! I encourage practitioners to use the method.
Moreover, we should extend the method to the classroom. Just as practitioners volunteer to judge moot court, they could volunteer to judge "mock judicial readings." A seminar in which a "mock judicial reading" was integrated would make a great upper level writing course.