Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s moot court teams had arguably the most successful season in the program’s history in 2016-17. C|M|LAW moot court students earned first place finishes at the Gabrielli National Family Law Moot Court Competition, the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition and the August A. Rendigs National Product Liability Moot Court Competition, and delivered strong performances at several other national competitions during the season.
The talented competitors, along with Moot Court Faculty Advisor Carolyn Broering-Jacobs and Black Law Students Association (BLSA) Faculty Advisor Browne Lewis, deserve the bulk of the credit for these successes. However, there is also an unsung force that gives the C|M|LAW teams an edge over the competition – the involvement of alumni.
Dozens of Cleveland-Marshall alumni, along with a handful of additional attorneys connected to the school, stay involved with the moot court program by volunteering as coaches and judges. Generally 2-3 coaches work with each team for the entire year as they prepare for competition. The coaches help prepare oral arguments, set up practice events and go to competitions where they support and coach their team. Judges work with teams on an ad hoc basis during practice oral arguments sessions to provide feedback and challenge students in a similar manner to competition judges. C|M|LAW teams typically practice with 5-15 volunteer judges before heading to competition.
“Hands down the involvement of our alumni as coaches and practice round judges is the best part of this program,” said Broering-Jacobs.
"Our students benefit from inside knowledge alumni coaches have about the competitions and as well as from interacting with practicing attorneys who can convey 'real-world' skills," said Lewis
Many schools use alumni and volunteers in some capacity, but the level of involvement of Cleveland-Marshall alumni is unique and gives students an edge over the alternative of only working with faculty and each other.
“I can practice with students until I’m blue in the face but they need to work with different people to get a diversity of ideas,” said Broering-Jacobs.
Alumni coaches and judges are able to provide direction with the benefit of having been in these students’ shoes before as moot court competitors themselves. The benefit of common experiences, be it remembering long nights of studying in the C|M|LAW library or connecting over a shared favorite professor, allow the recent alums to forge unique bonds with participants. Many of the alumni coaches even work with the team partaking in the same competition they participated in as students, allowing them to provide additional insight on the subject matter and details of the competition.
“As a student, it is nice to be able to take direction from someone who has gone through exactly what you are going through now,” explained Calfee Attorney and National Product Liability Team Coach Ciera Parish ’15. “As alumni coaches, we are able to let our students know exactly what the competition process looks like, how much time and energy is required to win the competition, and more importantly, what we wish we would have done differently during the competition process.”
“Competitors relate better to alumni coaches because of the shared experience of competing for the same law school,” said Tucker Ellis Associate and Frederick Douglass Moot Court Team Coach Brandon Cox ’12. “This benefit creates a stronger coaching relationship and overall sense of pride that in turn encourages competitors to continue the tradition of excellence.”
Oftentimes, the bonds forged between students and their alumni coaches and judges can go beyond the scope of moot court. Broering-Jacobs notes that the networking connections her students make are extremely valuable as they graduate law school and that a 2016 graduate landed a full-time position through a contact from his moot court coach.
The coaches and judges say they give back to the program because they feel moot court was instrumental in shaping them into successful professionals and they want to provide that same experience for students. Many of the current volunteer coaches helped grow C|M|LAW’s national presence in moot court during their time on the team by advancing deep into the later rounds of national competitions. They now find time to give back and help keep that momentum going while building their own careers.
“Moot court had a significant impact on me as a law student and professional,” said Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People Policy and Development Manager and Alumni Judge Danielle Doza ’12. “I know that a great moot court experience will model a student into a successful professional and I want to help make that happen for students for years to come.”
“My coaches and advisors spent an enormous amount of time and effort in shaping my career,” said Jones Day Associate and National Product Liability Team Coach Grayson Sieg ’15. “The least I can do is challenge a new group to make themselves better.”