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Environmental, Natural Resources, & Energy Law

L&C’s Environmental Moot Court Team Succeeds on all Counts

March 20, 2015

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    Daniel Rottenberg, Jacob Duginski, Stephanie Grant, and Professor Craig Johnston.

Jacob Duginski, Stephanie Grant, and Daniel Rottenberg are true winners. These third-year law students, along with their dedicated coach, Professor Craig Johnston, advanced to the semifinal round of the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition this past February. The most valuable part of the challenging and invigorating experience was not making it so deep into the competition, they say, but learning how to effectively advocate before an appellate court and participating with fellow law students both at home and away.

The national competition—held at Pace Law School in White Plains, New York—is “now the largest interschool moot court competition of any kind under one roof, regularly attracting in excess of 200 competitors from diverse law schools and 200 attorneys who serve as judges for the three days of oral arguments,” according to the Pace website. But the lessons learned by the Lewis & Clark team—and true value of the competition—begin months earlier in a classroom here in Portland.

Each fall Johnston teaches the Environmental and Animal Law Advocacy course to second- and third-year law students. This class centers on a moot court experience, but includes much more than that. During the first four or five weeks, each student prepares a brief on a particularly thorny environmental problem laid out by Johnston. Over a three-week period, students engage in six rounds of oral argument regarding the problem. The last three of these are competition rounds, which take place in front of a panel of faculty, alums, and practitioners from the community, giving the students the opportunity to practice thinking on their feet and responding to difficult questions and comments.

The top three advocates to emerge from these rounds are offered the chance to participate as part of the Lewis & Clark team for the national environmental competition. The next four students are offered spots on one of two Lewis & Clark national teams for the Animal Law Moot Court Competition.

The National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition team writes a brief (due around Thanksgiving) for the competition and begins a series of close to 30 intense practice rounds in preparation for the competition at Pace. These take place in front of panels of judges, faculty, and local practitioners (along with the indefatigable Johnston) prodding and pulling at their legal analysis.

Even on the plane to New York, the team continued to review and analyze the assigned problem. Rottenberg, on the team for a second year, said that Johnston urged them to choose the most difficult side of the issue to brief for the competition, explaining to them that this would best prepare them for oral argument and provide the opportunity to wrestle with the legal issues and learn the law in depth.

The team members say that while they worked night and day for over three months in preparation for the competition, it was one of the best experiences of their lives.

According to merriam-webster.com, a “winner” is “one that is successful especially through praiseworthy ability and hard work.” By this definition, Jacob, Stephanie and Daniel are all winners in our book.

Lewis & Clark Law School’s environmental moot court team has been a contender for the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition title many times over the last 20 years, advancing to the semifinals close to 20 times and winning the competition 7 times. Lewis & Clark’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program is considered one of the top programs in the country, and is currently ranked #1 by US News and World Report.