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Moot Court Team Excels at MC Law School

MC Law student Erin McManus of Louisiana
MC Law student Erin McManus of Louisiana

Erin McManus comes from a small Southern town with few traffic lights. She must travel about an hour to reach the nearest Walgreens and return to her hometown in Vacherie, Louisiana.

The 24-year-old Bayou State native was drawn to the Mississippi College School of Law because of its nationally competitive Moot Court team. Now the Class of 2021 member is helping the program excel virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic. McManus chairs the MC Law Moot Court Board.

Erin’s leadership is getting noticed since the University of Louisiana Monroe graduate arrived on the Jackson campus from her St. James Parish community. She competed on the ULM Moot Court team and met MC Law leaders at a regional event to spark her interest.

Fast forward to 2020 as 46 students with MC Law’s Moot Court team press on despite the worldwide health emergency. “This year has been bittersweet and incredibly challenging given the restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” McManus said.

Moot court experiences help law students enhance written and oral advocacy skills. But the worldwide health emergency required swift changes.

“We have had to make many adjustments to our oral advocacy skills as we continue to navigate  the world of online.”

Rather than displaying skills before judges at trial in courtrooms, MC Law students addressed them via webcam on computers.

This fall, MC Law’s team performed well in online competitions. The students finished as finalists at the Stetson Law School National Pretrial Competition in October. Their next stop was the New York City Bar Association’s National Moot Court Competition. The students received an award for the best brief, finished as regional champions, and join the national finals in January. MC Law students were selected regional champs at the American Bar Association’s Arbitration Competition and participate in the national finals in 2021.

Their latest accomplishments follow many superb performances at law school competitions across the USA for many years.

“I could not be more excited for the level of talent, dedication, perseverance, and hard work that I have seen from this group so far,” McManus said.

Moot Court experiences make students better professionals, whether they will argue cases before federal judges or file legal briefs for law firms.

Third-year law student, Mittie Fields of Madison, says her participation has been a “transformative experience” to advance her skills – from brief writing to oral arguments.

Gabrielle Wells, a second-year law student from Clinton, says the experience helped her become more flexible in courtroom settings. “Witnesses can be unpredictable and judges as well.”

Fort Walton Beach, Florida resident and second-year student Tom Shaw says Moot Court will make him a better attorney in criminal law.

MC Law Dean Patricia Bennett is proud of the students’ work. Moot Court, she said, is an excellent learning and training opportunity to help students think on their feet.

Bennett is grateful for volunteer partnerships with the American Board of Trial Advocates and the Mississippi Bar to support the program year-round. Attorneys coach MC Law’s competition teams.

Deserving much of the credit for Moot Court’s achievements is law professor Vicki Lowery Leech. Serving as their faculty advisor, the law school’s director of advocacy has provided immense assistance. The MC Law graduate invested considerable time, energy, and guidance into the program to make the program thrive.

One of the MC Law Moot Court team’s shining moments came during competition with counterparts from the University of Mississippi Law School. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. joined a panel of judges to oversee Jackson's September 2017 courtroom event. The activity was linked to Mississippi’s bicentennial.

Lessons learned from MC’s Moot Court Board are “irreplaceable,” Erin McManus says. “We will always remember the things we have been taught…for the rest of our lives.”