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“Preparedness is the ultimate insurance policy against embarrassment.” If there is one quote that more accurately describes the Moot Court experience than this one, I couldn’t find it. While being an incredibly entertaining event to compete in (and to watch with the right judge), this event affords more opportunities for embarrassment than most, especially when you encounter a particularly vindictive lawyer who knows a lot more about the 2nd amendment than you, a poor, innocent high schooler. At this point in the season, everyone has survived these terrifying encounters and finished up the regular qualifying season, leaving only the national championship remaining. For those still competing, since you qualified for nationals, I would bet that you have already prepped at least a little bit. However, in order to properly avoid embarrassment and, better yet, achieve success, you can’t stop preparing. The best teams use the downtime between each tournament to fine-tune their arguments, make small adjustments to their script, and practice answering questions. But nationals is not any ordinary tournament; it’s the most important one, with only the best teams left competing. Since the stakes are rising, so also should your level of preparation. I know that you may think you’ve prepped everything you possibly could, and maybe you have, but here are a couple of tips to streamline your preparation for the most important tournament of the year:

1 – Get to Know THE Cases 

I’m sure everyone has read at least a little bit of each of the cases this year, but this is the time to really get to know the ones that are important to your case. For example, if D.C. v. Heller is an important part of your argument, make sure you read that case cover to cover before nationals starts. This will serve as a reminder of important details that you might need in order to answer a question or respond to an argument at nationals. I know this may seem like basic advice or something that may not be that helpful; after all, you’ve read these cases before. However, I know from personal experience that re-reading cases before nationals improved my comprehension of cases, my ability to explain them, and the detail I could go into in nearly all of my answers to questions. 

2 – Get to Know YOUR Cases

Now that you’ve refreshed your knowledge of the cases in your packet, you need to move on to your own cases. Make any final adjustments to your arguments, and then try to get off of your notes as much as possible. While having notes up at the podium is not bad or against the rules, it is always better if you can recite your case off the top of your head, and you really get points with the judge when you can cite cases and page numbers in answers to their questions with no notes. Since nationals is in-person this year, this really gives you the opportunity to show your knowledge to the judges by having minimal notes with you. You know these arguments in and out, and you’ve been making them all year; take that next step and have them in your head instead of on paper. 

 3 – Get to Know the Questions

This one is simple: Do as many practice rounds as possible. Have your partner question you; practice with other teams you’re friends with; ask former competitors if they might be willing to help; in essence, get your case in front of as many people as possible. This allows you to learn how to answer a wide range of questions in order to minimize the likelihood of a judge at nationals asking you a question that you don’t know how to answer. Questions and their answers will win or lose you rounds if the rounds are close, which they will be at nationals, so make sure that you are as prepared as possible to make your answers round-winning. 

While preparation strategies can vary from person to person, these methods are, in my estimation, the most reliable and consistent ways to do well at nationals. The best insurance policy against embarrassment–and the strongest predictor of success–is how much work you put in on the front end. As Thomas Fuller once said, “A stitch in time saves nine.” 

Hannah Cavanaugh competed in the NCFCA for 6 years, during which she became National Champion in Lincoln-Douglas Speaking and Moot Court. She is currently studying American Government and Politics at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. If you want to book coaching with Hannah, Click here.

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