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Excellence in Appellate Advocacy

December 07, 2023

Care Shoaibi L'24, Sheila Orfano L'24, and Kirsten Hanlon L'24

Care Shoaibi L’24, Sheila Orfano L’24, and Kirsten Hanlon L’24 were awarded “Best Brief” at the 74th Annual NYC Bar National Moot Court Competition.

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s national moot court team recently won “Best Brief” in the regional round of the NYC Bar National Moot Court Competition. Winners of the regional rounds will advance to the final rounds of competition from January 29-31, 2024, at the New York City Bar Association.

In its 74th year, the annual competition is an inter-law school event aimed at advancing “the art of appellate advocacy.” Each year, over 120 law schools participate in the competition. Students competing in the historic competition hone their advocacy skills before prominent members of the legal profession.

The Penn Carey Law team, comprising Kirsten Hanlon L’24, Sheila Orfano L’24, and Care Shoaibi L’24 competed against peers representing nine law schools.

“We were a symbiotic team,” Shoaibi said. “Each of us took the lead on one of the three questions for certiorari before the court, and Kirsten took the lead on making sure the brief was written in a cohesive voice.”

Hanlon, who is pursuing a career in civil rights litigation, leveraged her appellate experience to support her team’s success in the regional competition.

Legal Practice Skills was my first exposure to legal research and writing, and it laid the foundation to further develop these skills,” she said. Hanlon continued honing her skills during her coursework and through an internship with the ACLU of Pennsylvania and a Federal Appellate Litigation Externship with Dechert LLP. “I am grateful for the hands-on experience in drafting legal documents and crafting creative arguments, as well as other opportunities available at Penn Carey Law that have exposed me to appellate practice,” she added.

After Hanlon finished polishing the team’s brief, Orfano and Shoaibi prepared for the competition with a moot oral argument session. The team’s moot sessions were supported by Gayle Gowen L’98, Legal Practice Skills Senior Lecturer and Director, Moot Court and LLM Practice Skills, as well as Jacob Grover L’24 and Leigh Bianchi L’24 who are members of Penn Carey Law’s Moot Court Board.

During preparations for oral argument, Shoaibi and Orfano decided to argue a different section than what they had individually briefed. Shoaibi noted that this approach allowed each team member to “see the connections between the arguments and develop a cohesive plan of action for presenting the argument in court.”

“The moot we did was a huge help in practicing giving our arguments and answering potential questions,” Orfano said. “I really appreciated that people in the Penn Carey Law community were willing to help us prepare.”

“Our team worked very well together throughout the entire process,” Hanlon said. “I’m so proud of Care and Sheila for their performance at the regional competition!”

In addition to the exhilarating competition, Shoaibi, who will clerk in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upon graduation, appreciated getting to know the moot court judges.

“After each argument, while we waited for the winners to be announced, the judges told us a little about themselves,” she said. “I loved this part! It was exciting to see how these lawyers, some of whom also participated in this competition as law students, developed their careers in different ways.”

Orfano, who is an incoming associate at Jones Day in New York and plans to practice labor and employment law, reflected on her experience delivering oral arguments during the competition.

“During one of our rounds the judges seemed really focused on one particular fact in the record and kept asking questions about it, and I had to adapt my argument,” she said. “It was a good example of how flexible you need to be during oral arguments and that arguments are really the judges’ time.”

Learn more about advocacy competition opportunities at Penn Carey Law.