Students practicing in simulated courtroom proceedings will now earn experiential learning course credits.
One UNC School of Law’s many student activities recently got an academic makeover. Since its inception in 1951, the Holderness Moot Court program has helped law students develop skills in legal research, written preparation, and oral advocacy. After decades as a predominantly student-run organization, under the leadership of Professor Annie Scardulla it has become a co-curricular program in which students earn experiential learning academic credits.
Holderness Moot Court students serve on a wide variety of teams. Some draft briefs and present oral arguments before federal and state justices and judges as they travel to local, regional and national competitions. Others serve on dispute-resolution teams, conducting mock negotiations, client interview and mock arbitrations. This year, most competitions are being held virtually.
“Historically, students would try out for Holderness as a 1L and be assigned to a team,” says Scardulla, who joined the faculty last year. “They would compete as a 2L and 3L, and then receive academic course credits, but only now are they guaranteed to receive the in-depth instruction required for experiential learning credits.”
First-year students who successfully compete to join a Holderness Moot Court team now study in the fall semester of their second year in the skills-focused course that best matches the type of competition for which they are training, namely one of the following:
- Advanced Appellate Advocacy for students on appellate advocacy teams;
- Negotiation Law for students attending negotiation-based competitions;
- Interviewing and Counseling for students attending client counseling competitions; and
- Evidence for students attending an arbitration competition.
“Arbitration tests a lot of trial skills, so Evidence is a good fit for them,” says Scardulla, who teaches Research, Reasoning, Writing, and Advocacy I and II.
The fall semester courses provide an opportunity for students to develop a better understanding of the subject matter that they will practice in the spring. In the spring, Holderness students also take one of two competition labs.
“First, the Appellate Advocacy Competition Lab guides our appellate teams as they develop advocacy skills,” Scardulla says. “Second, the Dispute Resolution Lab prepares the other Holderness students for competitions in client interviewing, counseling, negotiation and arbitration.”
Holderness initially was run by students without a faculty advisor. Later Professor Donald T. Hornstein served as the program’s formal faculty advisor and expanded the program to be more inclusive of all students. Though Scardulla knows she has big shoes to fill, her experience administering the moot court program at the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center prepared her well, and at UNC she hit the ground running.
Practicing in moot court competitions helps students gain confidence and provides networking opportunities when competitions are held at the same time as professional legal conferences, Scardulla says.
“We want Carolina Law students to leave feeling competent and ready to practice. Holderness is a fast-track avenue for students to develop those practice-ready skills.”