Each year, students on the Moot Court Board collaborate behind-the-scenes to create and run the Law School’s annual advocacy competition, the Edwin R. Keedy Cup.
Each year, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School students vie for the Edwin R. Keedy Cup, a competition that culminates with two pairs of students arguing their cases before a panel of esteemed federal judges. For over seven decades, the Law School community has come out in force to watch the oral argument.
None of this, however, would be possible without the tireless work of a small team of students on the Law School’s Moot Court Board, which organizes the entire competition.
Congratulations to the students who earned a place on the 2022-2023 Moot Court Board:
- Matt Nelson L’23 (Chair)
- Anya Chen L’23
- Brian Kennedy L’23
- David Waites L’23
- Emma McCabe L’23
- Haley Ferise L’23
- Janice Jiang L’23
- Katherine Ericson L’23
- Lachlan Athanasiou L’23
- Marcia Foti L’23
- Nithya Pathalam L’23, MPA’23
- Noah Zimmermann L’23
- Samuel Rossum L’23
- Sarah Goodman L’23
- Timothy “Beau” Parker L’23, WG’23
- Trevor Nystrom L’23
- Yosef Weitzman C’20, L’23
Creating the Competition
Members of the Moot Court Board are selected in April of their 2L year, along with the four students who will compete in the Keedy Cup and the three students who will compete as part of the Penn Carey Law National Moot Court Team.
The Moot Court Board’s work setting up the following year’s Keedy Cup competition begins the following fall semester, when they collaborate to select a pending federal dispute for the competition. In itself, this is a complicated task that requires a keen ability to analyze legal disputes and identify potential arguments on either side of an issue.
“A lot of factors go into choosing a good case; it’s really hard to do,” said Carolyn Sharzer L’22, who was a member of the 2021-2022 Moot Court Board. “For the preliminary case, we have to find a case where we can isolate one issue for the participants to argue. The final Keedy case has to be a case that has two distinct legal issues. We’re also trying to think about a case that students can really get their arms around.”
Sharzer’s classmate and fellow 2021-2022 Moot Court Board member Tristan Lim L’22 further noted that the Board also paid careful consideration to the substantive legal areas when choosing cases for the competition.
“We pick cases that try to get at really basic skills that students were taught as 1Ls. What does the text of the statute say? What is the purpose behind a particular rule? These are things that you learn in Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Criminal Law,” said Lim. “We aim to pick a case that tries to get at a conflict between the text of a statute and what the relevant legislative body actually meant to do. A lot of the really great briefs not only articulated that tension, but also sought to grapple with it in really creative ways.”
Once the competition opens, participating 2Ls write and return briefs that the Moot Court Board is then responsible for evaluating.
Learning to evaluate written advocacy constitutes a new and deeper way of thinking about legal advocacy. Apratim Vidyarthi L’22, who served as a Legal Practice Skills Littleton Fellow in addition to the 2021-2022 Moot Court Board, reflected on observing his fellow law students develop as legal writers and advocates over the course of their years in law school.
“It’s really interesting to see the big jump in skills and the growth that students have. I enjoyed seeing the back end of writing a bench memo and thinking about how we assess someone’s oral arguments and brief. When you’re participating in Keedy, you don’t think from that perspective. As you watch their experience unfold, you see the gears click for people in terms of understanding how preparation for an appellate argument works,” Vidyarthi said. “Ultimately, the students who came out on top in this competition were the ones who had unique arguments and thought outside the box.”
Substantive Skills & Leadership Experience
Participating on the Moot Court Board helps students develop and hone skill sets essential to success in future legal careers.
The practice of critically reading other students’ briefs helped Lim hone his own skills and take his brief writing to the next level. By seeing firsthand what is effective in other briefs, you fast-forward the learning process.
“As a 2L, you don’t get many opportunities to assess arguments outside of a casebook, and you don’t actually get to read briefs or see how arguments are written in a way that is convincing to different perspectives,” said Lim. “When you get a chance to assess briefs on the merits – it’s like being a judge – you get a chance to make decisions by thinking through: Why did I find this viewpoint convincing? How did the advocate articulate their strengths and weaknesses? It really helps with brief writing.”
Vidyarthi echoed Lim’s sentiments, also pointing out that appellate litigation involves a specific type of legal analysis that becomes easier to understand with practice. His experience on the Moot Court Board enabled him to delve deeper into the mindset of an appellate litigator, which he expects will be useful to him as he begins his career at a law firm.
“It was really rewarding – and obviously very stressful at times – but at the end of the day, I definitely grew a lot. From a leadership perspective and a substantive perspective, this experience will be invaluable when it comes to working at a law firm,” said Vidyarthi. “In appellate litigation, you have to be able to think not only of the arguments individually but also of the big picture process that involves the back-and-forth iterations of the different arguments, how you move throughout that, and then finally what the judges are thinking when you actually go to court.”
In addition to honing critical writing and analysis skills, Sharzer highlighted the importance of learning to work alongside a team on a high-profile project. Keedy Cup, she underscored, is an enormous part of the Law School’s culture, and many people count on the Moot Court Board to create an engaging and well-run competition. This means that the Moot Court Board holds a sizable responsibility and requires dedication and collaboration among all of its members.
“This was a particularly unique experience in working as a team, because it was a really big and important project that had a lot of scrutiny on it,” Sharzer said. “The Board had some late nights and some tight deadlines, but everyone kept an amazing attitude. I have infinite gratitude toward my classmates from the Board; there couldn’t have been a better group of people to work with throughout this process.”
Explore the broad range of advocacy competitions at the Law School.