Putting Legal Skills into Practice

By Karin Carter, Associate Clinical Professor, Santa Clara Legal Writing Faculty, and External Moot Court Advisor

In Santa Clara Law’s External Moot Court program, students are put in the role of lawyers, learning to effectively use skills needed in law practice. To succeed, Santa Clara Law’s moot court students have to use every academic skill they have learned in law school, in addition to a range of real practice skills. As in actual law practice, they work in teams and under pressure.

Santa Clara’s Honors Moot Court students work in teams, simulating practice groups in a law firm; they are held to professional standards of practice. This experience enables students to develop and use the professional skills needed in the real day-to-day practice of law: cooperative teamwork to achieve a common goal; learning to manage projects and schedules; using interpersonal communication and advocacy skills; and working effectively with colleagues and supervisors.

“The Honors Moot Court External ABA Negotiation Competition will definitely be one of the most rewarding experiences that I will have at Santa Clara University School of Law,” says law student Michael Manoukian. “The practical aspect of the preparation and execution of the negotiation is a process that cannot be replicated in the classroom…I am forever grateful for being part of [External Moot Court] because the knowledge and growth that I experienced were, in my opinion, unattainable in a traditional classroom setting.”


From left, Eric Goldman, professor of law and director, High Tech Law Institute; IP LawMeet team members Steven Chao and Nellie Amjadi; and Karin Carter, associate clinical professor and External Moot Court advisor. Photo by Maria Quinonez.


Students can:
  • become practice-ready using legal skills outside the classroom;
  • take on the role of a lawyer in simulated practice settings;
  • pit their legal research, writing, and oral advocacy skills against the best teams from other law schools;
  • build a professional network with practitioners who have the opportunity to see them in action; and
  • enhance their resumes with the distinction and experience that employers seek.


Volunteering with moot court is a great way to share your skills and experience, give back to the Santa Clara Law community, and help develop the next generation of lawyers. To get involved as a competition judge, mooting judge, or team coach, contact Assistant Clinical Professor Michael Flynn, mwflynn@scu.edu. For more information on our moot court programs, visit law.scu.edu/mootcourt.



Moot court students have a rare opportunity to work closely with professors and practitioners who coach our teams in a way that is not as available in a classroom setting. These experiences lay the groundwork for the students to build a professional network and expand their horizons.

Santa Clara Law students participate in a variety of competitions that also complement the practice areas represented by our Centers and Institutes. We send teams to competitions with a focus on one or more areas of intellectual property law, public and private aspects of international law, and a variety of social justice issues, such as environmental law, constitutional rights, asylum and immigration, and juvenile law, among others.

These opportunities for experiential learning are not limited to the typical appellate moot court competitions that have long been a staple for law schools. Santa Clara’s External Moot Court program offers a variety of experiences, including the traditional appellate moot court competitions, but we also compete in competitions that hone other skills such as negotiation, transactional drafting, interviewing and counseling, humanitarian law simulations, and arbitration.

“The Sports Law Negotiation Competition gave me invaluable lawyering skills that I will undoubtedly use in my career,” says law student Kyle Cakebread. “Not only did I learn how to work under high pressure situations, I also learned how to collaborate with my teammates to produce the highest quality work product. [External Moot Court] presents an opportunity to law students that I think they should capitalize upon.”

Each year our students represent Santa Clara Law in the local, national, and international legal community. We have teams competing close by in Palo Alto, such as the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) patent law regional rounds at Morrison & Foerster, across the country at the Pace Law School National Environmental Law Competition in New York state, and even on another continent, such as our Pictet team who will travel overseas to attend the International Humanitarian Law competition at a world heritage site in Portugal.

Moot court is a way for Santa Clara students to encounter the outside world, and where the world can see them performing at their best: in the role of lawyers who lead.

  • ABA Client Counseling Competition Region 9 Rounds was hosted by Santa Clara Law in February. Jessica Mawrence and Rebecca Sullivan placed second out of 12 teams; Nnennaya Amuchie and Randy Reyes tied for sixth place. Their coach is Professor Scott Maurer.
  • Pepperdine Copyright and Entertainment Law National Moot Court Competition, Malibu, CA.
  • Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition, sponsored by the International Law Students Association (ILSA). Regional Rounds at Lewis & Clark Law, Portland, Ore. Topic is International Public Law.
  • Jean-Pictet Competition, International Humanitarian Law, held this year in Sintra, Portugal.
  • Saul Lefkowitz Trademark Competition, sponsored by the International Trademark Association (INTA). Regional Rounds held at the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, CA.
  • AIPLA (American Intellectual Property Law Association) Giles Sutherland Rich Moot Court Competition, Regional Rounds held at Morrison & Foerster, Palo Alto, Calif. Topic is Patent Law.
  • Pace Law School National Competition in Environmental Law, White Plains, N.Y. Team of Lara Graham, Alex Balzer Carr, and Tarisha Bal made it to quarterfinals, competing among 72 teams. Coach is Professor Ken Manaster.
  • Jerome Prince Memorial Moot Court Competition at Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, N.Y. Topic is Evidence Law.
  • National Asylum and Refugee Law Competition at UC Davis School of Law, Davis, CA.
  • Whittier National Juvenile Law Competition at Whittier Law School, Costa Mesa, Calif. Team of Hugo Meza and Lauren Rios made it to quarterfinals, competing among 24 teams. Coach is Roxanna Alavi, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.
  • Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition, sponsored by the American Red Cross, held in Washington, D.C.
  • California Bar Association Environmental Law Section Student Negotiation Competition, held this year at UCLA Law, Los Angeles, CA


This year’s competitions have already given Santa Clara students the opportunity to demonstrate their excellence in legal skills and substance. Here are some highlights from this year’s competitions.

Both Santa Clara teams came away with prestigious awards last November. Nellie Amjadi, 2L, and Steve Chao, 2L, advanced to the National IP LawMeet final rounds, held by teleconference. Erika Ilanan, 2L, and Christopher Placencia, 3L, received best drafting award. Tom Jevens, in-house counsel at Google, served as Santa Clara teams’ coach. Michelle Ton, 3L, was the Honors Moot Court Board team manager.


From left, IP LawMeet team Christopher Placencia, Erika Ilanan, and coach Tom Jevens.

Described as “moot court for transactional lawyers,” IP LawMeet is where students represent a party in an IP licensing deal, interview their virtual client, and draft a term sheet to reflect the client’s goals and interests. Next, teams exchange term sheets and markups, and at the competition, they sit face-to-face to negotiate the remaining terms of the deal. The students are evaluated by a panel of IP LawMeet transactional practitioners who give each competitor personal feedback.

“Being able to represent SCU at the IP Regional LawMeet has been the most exhilarating and engaging experience that I’ve had so far at Santa Clara Law,” says Ilanan. “I’ve learned so much about my communication style and how to use it effectively while negotiating, how to draft a joint development agreement, and at the same time receive feedback from practicing attorneys to refine my skills.”

Also in November, Santa Clara sent two teams to argue at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco for the regional rounds of the prestigious National Moot Court Competition, sponsored by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Team members Clay LaPoint and Sara Rose, 3Ls, both received a best oralist in a preliminary round. They went on to compete in the finals at the 64th Annual New York City Bar National Moot Court Competition in New York in February, along with their brief writer, 2L Curtis Wheaton. This year’s topics were Dormant Commerce Clause and First Amendment issues. The team’s coach is Associate Clinical Professor Yvonne Ekern, Santa Clara Law Legal Research and Writing faculty. Natalie Kirkish, 3L, was the Moot Court Board team manager for both teams. This is the first Santa Clara Law team in recent years to advance to the national rounds of this prestigious competition.

“Moot Court enhanced my legal education by allowing me to critically evaluate key legal issues and apply that analysis in a competitive and exciting format,” says Wheaton. “It served as a great practical addition to my substantive legal education.”

Our other team also performed with distinction. Melissa Hoff and Joe Tursi, 3Ls, made a strong showing in the preliminary rounds—Melissa received a best oralist award in one round. Their brief writer was 3L Anne Boyer, and the team’s coach was Eric Hutchins J.D. ’06, in-house counsel at Oracle.

“The [External Moot Court] program gave me the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues while also presenting us with challenges we wouldn’t be exposed to in other aspects of legal education,” says law student Joseph Tursi. “In sum, we were able to put our legal training to the test.”

PROFESSOR KARIN CARTER competed as a member of her law school’s Cardozo copyright team; she then went on to coach other moot court teams as a student moot court board member. As a second-career law student, she also recognized from prior work experience how moot court could serve as an introduction for students to the realities of law practice. She began teaching legal writing at Santa Clara in 2005 and coached several teams before becoming the faculty advisor to the external moot court program in 2008.