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Zoom! Moot Court Moves Online

In our new socially distanced reality, Pepperdine Caruso Law is now operating 100% online. As law schools continue to navigate the transition to online learning, the question remains: cancel or continue with oral argument competitions?

Caruso Law chose to charge on, and last week, the school held the preliminary rounds of our annual first-year moot court competition via Zoom. Nearly 40 faculty,  alumni, and Moot Court and Law Review members supported the competition by judging multiple rounds, admitting it was nearly as much of a thrill as the in-person rounds.

Moot Court Board Faculty Advisor Professor Stephanie Williams shared, "We are one of the first schools to take such a large tournament–with multiple levels of rounds and cash prizes–online. As I helped move us to an online format in one crazy week, so many people inside and outside of Pepperdine gave me incredible support."

This year, despite the unprecedented challenges, half of the 1L class still eagerly chose to participate, so four students and two judges were assigned to each of the 23 Zoom courtrooms. Stephanie Williams stresses the importance of selecting trusted members of the community to serve as judges and meeting hosts.

Professor S. Williams hopes to pay that support forward, so she shared the details on the Appellate Advocacy Blog in order to assist other law school moot court programs with the transition. "The students are grateful we gave them a formal oral argument opportunity," Stephanie Williams said, "and many sent thank you emails and even fun Zoom screen shots to us."

The top two teams will go through to the final round Wednesday night, and the whole Caruso Law community is encouraged to join the Zoom courtroom. Sitting judges will serve on the final round bench, complete with a separate deliberation room Zoom meeting, ensuring their voting discussion will be confidential.

Professor S. Williams emphasizes that it is still possible to give students a traditional first-year experience by moving oral arguments, a highlight of the 1L year, online. "Many of our courts are doing the same thing," she explained, "and after holding these successful digital arguments at Pepperdine, I can promise you will be glad you saved moot court by moving online too."

11 students on a zoom call screen