August 30, 2011

Update: The motion that prompted Judge Sparks's "Kindergarten Cop" order


Courtesy of my Texas Tech compadre Dustin Benham over at the Legal Writing Prof Blog.

Bad Advocacy - Vol. 7 (Judge Sparks at it again)

This one might be my favorite.

August 29, 2011

Great advocacy articles from the ABA Journal

The ABA Journal has been republishing some of Jim McElhaney's old columns, and they're worth printing off for your permanent library. Two of my favorites are his October 1997 article on how to cross-examine evasive witnesses (something all mock trial advocates have had to deal with) and his December 1996 column on "The Dirty Dozen" ways to write an awful brief.

August 26, 2011

Grammar Friday

-- So the folks at Old Navy apparently missed that last Saturday was "Apostrophe Day."

-- Above the Law wants to know whether you use the serial comma (all Bryan Garner-loving brief writers should answer with an emphatic "YES").

-- One thing that never gets old for me? The unnecessary quotation mark.

August 25, 2011

Bad Advocacy - Vol. 6

Our latest entry comes courtesy of Above the Law, which yesterday reported on attorney Allan Parker, Jr., whose shenanigans in a federal district court in Austin have drawn the ire of Judge Sam Sparks.

Of course, those familiar with Judge Sparks know that he's not shy about calling out attorney conduct he's not happy with. In this instance, he says Parker is "anything but competent." He explains:
A competent attorney would not have filed this motion in the first place; if he did, he certainly would not have attached exhibits that are both highly prejudicial and legally irrelevant; and if he foolishly did both things, he surely would not be so unprofessional as to file such exhibits unsealed. A competent attorney who did those things would be deliberately disrespecting this Court and knowingly shirking his professional responsibilities, offenses for which he would be lucky to retain his bar card, much less an intact bank balance.


August 24, 2011

Great article on Memphis Advocacy Director

Check out today's Daily News in Memphis for a neat article on Barbara Kritchevsky, Professor and Director of Advocacy at the University Of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School Of Law.

I appreciate how she refers to moot court as "law school sports." That's the exact thing I tell 1L students when they enter law school.

August 23, 2011

Apostrophe usage

Don't know how I missed "Apostrophe Day," but I'm sorry I did. Anyway, this is a pretty good way to remember when you should use the apostrophe in "its" and when you shouldn't. Admittedly, I sometimes struggle with this myself...

August 22, 2011

New spring moot court competition at IU-Indianapolis

Professor Jim Dimitri at the Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis reports:

The Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis Moot Court Society will hold the first annual National Professional Responsibility Moot Court Competition on March 9-10, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This competition is open to all ABA-accredited law schools in the United States and will focus on two issues of professional responsibility. Legal and judicial ethics, professional regulation, professionalism, and client protection pertain to every practitioner, no matter what legal field. The National Professional Responsibility Moot Court Competition will offer students an outstanding opportunity to engage in advocacy on cutting-edge professional responsibility concerns.

Oral arguments will begin on Friday, March 9 and conclude on Saturday, March 10. All rounds of the competition will take place at Inlow Hall at 530 West New York Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46202.

Early registration at a discounted rate is open until September 30, 2011. Late registration opens on October 1, 2011 and ends on October 31, 2011. To register and get more information about the competition, including information about accommodations, please go to the competition's website at

August 19, 2011

Briefing -- Twitter style

I've never "tweeted," and the only time I've used Twitter was to follow the testimony at the Barry Bonds perjury trial this past spring. So, on one hand, this seems like a dumb idea. On the other hand, given my opinion that briefs ought to count less in moot court competitions than they oftentimes do (a long post for another day), perhaps I should champion this idea. In short, the State Bar of Texas Appellate Section is having a brief writing competition that limits you to 140 characters. Have fun with all that...

August 18, 2011

Some decent proofreading advice

Short, but sweet. Students writing moot court briefs can benefit from these four easy tips...

August 17, 2011

So would the Yankees say I can't call South Texas "The Evil Empire?"

South Texas College of Law and I have this running joke (which isn't all that funny, really), where I call them "The Evil Empire" ala Star Wars. Dean Gerald Treece is the Emperor, while moot court coach extraordinaire Rob Galloway is Treece's Sith apprentice, Darth Vader. Ha, ha, right? (I even heard that last year South Texas had shirts made saying "Never Underestimate the Power of the Dark Side").

Don't know why I ever started calling them that, although I'm sure somewhere in my subconscious I was just ripping off Red Sox fans, who have for some time referred to the hated New York Yankees as The Evil Empire. Because really, if there's anything in the law school advocacy world equivalent to the New York Yankees and their 27 World Championships, it's South Texas and their 107 National Championships.

Anyway, fun story today at Deadspin about the Yankees' attempts to quash one company's use of the term "Evil Empire" in selling anti-Yankees merch. Only the thing is, I'm not really sure the Yankees care about the use of the term Evil Empire. Rather, it it seems pretty plain to me that the Yankees are much more concerned about the blatant use of the team's trademarks -- in particular the famous interlocking NY on their hats and home jerseys, and the script Yankees with the Uncle Sam hat on the bat.

The Evil Empire folks are clearly using those marks. I agree there's an interesting parody issue at play (a parody always has to bear a high degree of semblance to the original; otherwise, it wouldn't be funny -- think "Weird" Al Yankovich). But would the Yankees care if someone just made shirts that said "Baseball's Evil Empire" -- without invoking the Yankees' famous marks? I doubt it.

And the idea that the Yankees should have trademarked the term first if they wanted to prevent others from using it is silly. You can't just trademark terms that you have no intention of using to play "keep away" from competitors (or, in this case, critics). Obviously, the Yankees wouldn't use the term "Evil Empire" in their own advertising.

So this will be a fun one to watch develop, if for no other reason than my needling of South Texas hangs in the balance.

August 16, 2011

Mock trial primer videos

A company called Before Class Media has a couple of videos on its website teaching basic trial skills. Go there and you'll find stuff on opening, closing, direct, and moving about the courtroom. The videos are behind a paywall, but they've posted the opening statement video (which, for a second, I thought ripped off the theme song from Shaft) on their blog, Trial Skills Live. In the blog's archive section (on the left side of the page), you can find some free articles that talk about the same sort of topics.

August 15, 2011

An incredible infographic on typography

Anyone who's read this blog knows I'm kind of a font dork (I'm also a dork in other areas, but those aren't the subject of a law school advocacy blog).

Anywho, check out this totally awesome infographic guide to typography. It's pretty much everything you ever wanted to know (or didn't want to know) about fonts and graphic design.

Briefs aren't necessarily the time or place to get fancy pants with fonts, but a little knowledge about good graphic design can make a bad brief at least look pretty. And if you've written a gem, why wouldn't you want your brief to look as good as it reads?

August 12, 2011

South Texas to host new mock trial competition

The great Dean T. Gerald Treece -- The Emperor, as I jokingly call him -- has asked me to pass along that South Texas College of Law will be launching a new mock trial tournament this spring, which he's calling the "Texas Shoot-Out" National Mock Trial Competition. The competition will take place in March and focus on the legal issues concerning the practice of law and medicine, as well as the ethical conflicts in both. It will be in honor of Dean Treece's friend, the great trial lawyer John O'Quinn, who died in 2009.

Not surprisingly, South Texas knows how to run a competition -- I can attest to that from personal knowledge. Houston is a huge city with a vibrant legal community, and I'm confident the quality of judges you'll see at this tournament will be as good as any competition in the country. South Texas is already working with Houston medical schools to have medical students play the parts of witnesses. There will also be a written trial brief component to the competition, Dean Treece tells me.

If you want more information, contact Dean Treece via e-mail at or phone at 713.646.1776.

August 11, 2011

Will moot court get you chicks?

At least one cat thinks so (if you can, skip the first 1:20 of this drivel).

August 10, 2011

Future mooters unite!

From earlier this summer: A great story about minority high school students learning about the law through a moot court competition put on by the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

August 9, 2011

Yale Law grad named "Top Gun" at Baylor tournament

Sarah Chervinsky, a 2011 Yale Law School graduate, won the second-annual Top Gun mock trial tournament hosted by Baylor Law School in early June. The competition--a one-of-a-kind contest that has students compete individually rather than as a team--invited 18 advocates from the nation's top mock trial programs. The competitors received the problem just 24 hours before the first round, and additional evidence and witnesses were added as the tournament rolled on.

Ms. Chervinsky defeated Shannon O'Guin from Samford University Cumberland School of Law in the final round. Unfortunately for O'Guin--and in true Top Gun fashion--"there are no points for second place." Or should I say, Benjamins; Chervisnky took home a cool 10 grand for her fancy flyin'. No word on whether O'Guin's plaque will indeed be located in the ladies' room. (I kill me, I really do.)

The competition was sponsored by the Texas law firm of Naman Howell Smith & Lee, PLLC.

Baylor has a post-competition rundown here. Yale details Chervinsky's win here. Cumberland talks about O'Guin's runner-up finish here.

August 8, 2011

At least two fall moot court competitions still accepting registrations

For any schools that haven't yet finalized their slate of fall moot court competitions, I know of at least two tournaments that are still accepting teams. The National Veterans Law Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C. is looking to grow into the 16-20 team range, and is not yet full. Likewise, the Mercer Legal Ethics and Professionalism Moot Court Competition in Mercer, Georgia, already has 20 teams registered but is accepting up to 36.

If there are any other comps out there that aren't yet full (and want to be), let me know and I'd be happy to post...

*EDIT* Commenter WT correctly points out that Mercer is in Macon. As far as I know, there is no such place as Mercer, Georgia. Perhaps a moot court problem drafter will create it???

Ol' Miss wins Scribes Award

Scribes (the American Society of Legal Writers) announced its 2010-11 Brief-Writing Award back in June. The Scribes Award is given to the "Best of the Best Briefs" -- only those briefs that have won a Best Brief award in a regional or national interschool moot court competition are eligible to win.

The University of Mississippi School of Law took first place for the brief it wrote in the Mercer Legal Ethics and Professionalism Moot Court Competition. William & Mary Law School won second place for its regional best brief in the National Moot Court Competition. Texas Tech University School of Law was awarded third place for its regional best brief in the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition.

Full results are here. You can see Ol' Miss's press release here.

Let's get it started...

Hi folks. I'm too embarrassed to count the days since my last post, so let's just forget about my many-months-long absence. I'm back, ready for another year of blogging about the wide world of law school advocacy. As always, I welcome suggestions for post ideas and need your help in reporting on competition results. So welcome back y'all and here's to a great year!