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Environmental, Natural Resources, & Energy Law

LC’s National Environmental Law Moot Court Team advances to semi-finals for 12th consecutive year

February 28, 2017

  • News Image
    2017 National Environmental Moot Court team (left to right): Prof. and Coach Johnston, Kathryn Roberts, Rachel Briggs, Amy Saack.

Lewis & Clark Law School’s National Environmental Law Moot Court team advanced to the semi-finals of the 2017 national competition at Pace Law School for the 12th consecutive year. The team of Kathryn Roberts (3L), Amy Saack (3L), and Rachel Briggs (2L), coached by Prof. Craig Johnston, knocked out Vermont Law School and the University of New Mexico in the quarter finals. Columbia Law School advanced out of the semi-final round with Lewis & Clark and went on to win the national title. Lewis & Clark has won the national competition 7 times. 

Kathryn Roberts, returning for her second year on the team, tied for the runner-up spot in the competition for the best overall oralist (out of more than 170 advocates). 

The national competition - held at Pace Law School in White Plains, New York - is the largest interschool moot court competition of any kind under one roof, regularly attracting 200 competitors from law schools from all over the nation, according to the Pace website. But the lessons learned by the Lewis & Clark team - and the true value of the competition - begin months earlier in a classroom here in Portland.

Each fall Johnston teaches the Environmental 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 environmental moot court team writes a brief (due around Thanksgiving) for the competition and begins a series of 30 - 40 intense practice rounds in preparation for the competition at Pace. These take place in front of panels of judges, faculty, and local practitioners - as well as Prof. Johnston. These intense practice rounds, and the numerous hours the team puts into preparation, create a unique experience for the students and a legacy of excellence for the Moot Court program.

Kathryn Roberts explains what the Moot Court experience meant to her: 

“As a team, we worked pretty much non-stop for about three months. It is undoubtedly one of the most intense experiences in law school. It is also the most rewarding experience of my academic career. It is the only chance in law school to not only become a subject matter expert in a discrete area of environmental law, but do so in a practical application setting, and then continually hone that expertise by advocating in front of a panel of subject matter experts from across the law faculty and the local community.

Lewis & Clark has perhaps the deepest roster of expertise in environmental law found anywhere, including the faculty, staff, and alumni community. Nowhere is that more accessible than the moot court program. This year we had more than twenty-five different faculty, alumni, and local practitioners as judges over the course of our team’s preparation. Many judged multiple rounds, and all of them gave our team individual feedback and advice after each practice round. Combined with the unrelenting support and tireless dedication of our coach, Professor Johnston, and a fantastic team that became a close knit group of friends, this experience is simply unmatched by any other I have come across in law school.”

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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 more than 20 times and winning the competition 7 times. Lewis & Clark’s Environmental, Natural Resources,and Energy Law Program is considered one of the top programs in the country, and is currently ranked near the top by US News and World Report.