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My name is Hala Furst, and I am a 3L. Before coming to Roger Williams I received a BA in Theatre Arts at the University of Minnesota. In the three years between graduating from college and arriving here in Bristol, RI, I worked as a hotel concierge for a luxury brand, a loan officer and mortgage...

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Arguing for Fun and Profit

Posted by Hala Furst on 02/12/2009 at 12:00 AM

This past weekend I travelled with five other Moot Court Board members to Regent University in Virginia Beach to participate in their National Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition. We sent two teams, each team consisting of two oralists and one brief writer. For my team, made up of 2Ls, it was the first time any of us had competed outside of the in-house RWU competitions like the 1L Mini Moot and the Esther Clark Competition. Not knowing what to expect, we prepared incessantly, knowing that you can never really anticipate all of the questions a judge will throw your way. We made a strong showing, with Tyler Smith picking up First Place Oralist, myself coming home with Second Place, and Catherine Lemery bringing home Fourth. Catherine and Tyler’s team also made it to the semifinals.***

Competitions are a little bit crazy. There are teams from all over the country, and everyone is wandering around in black suits, talking to one another and the walls as they try to remember every possible fact and legal precedent written about the given topic since the United States became a country. It takes a special kind of masochist to want to walk into a room and invite lawyers, judges, and other practicioners to tell you just how wrong you are, forcing you to defend your position at every turn. They say a good oral argument is like a conversation. That may be true. What they don’t tell you is that the conversation is with an adversarial, aggressive mind who usually knows infinitely more than you do, or if not, behaves that way. And no matter how wrong a judge might be, you can never just say “you’re wrong.” You have to couch it in professional, respectful terms of distinguishing disagreement. The urge to start screaming at people can be very strong. You aren’t just being scored on what you know, you’re being scored on how you present it, and how calm you remain in the face of overwhelming odds.

But at the end of the day, when you get that zinger in, when you get the judges to shut up and take notice, when you get someone whose mind was made up to change it, that is a feeling of victory no one can take away. You know when you nailed it and you know when you flubbed it. So ultimately, the toughest judge in the room is always going to be you.

***Update on 2/27/09: Due to a scoring error on behalf of the host school, Catherine and Tyler’s team should have advance to the final round. Because of this error (and because we would have certainly won had we gone to the final round), the host school awarded RWU a championship as well.