Political science major Olivia Guidry has a head start on her career as a lawyer, thanks to the preparation she’s getting as a member of UL Lafayette’s nationally ranked Moot Court Team.
On the Moot Court Team, Olivia competes against students from universities across the country, presenting oral arguments in a Supreme Court-style mock trial. UL Lafayette’s Moot Court Team is the first — and only nationally competitive — team in Louisiana.
Since 2017, team members have earned more than $1 million dollars in law school scholarships. In 2021, UL Lafayette’s Moot Court Team was ranked No. 5 in the country.
Olivia joined the team during her second semester at UL Lafayette and quickly fell in love with it.
“I realized that was something that was really fun, even though I wasn't very good at it yet,” she said. “It was something that I definitely want to keep doing, that I knew would help me in public speaking and thinking on my feet, and with writing.”
Preparing for competition
To prepare for the Moot Court tournaments, all competitors across the country receive the same fictitious case problem written in the style of a true court opinion. All competitors have to prepare arguments for both sides, either as the petitioner or the federal government.
With practicing lawyers and law students as judges, the competitors argue different sides for each round of the tournament.
“It's really great at helping you to see both sides of an issue, because you have to be able to argue both sides and argue them well,” Olivia said. “And it's very helpful because you can poke holes in your own argument to help you write the next one.”
To prep for the tournaments and form their arguments, UL Lafayette’s Moot Court Team members read past Supreme Court case decisions.
“It's just interesting seeing how Supreme Court justices write — you know, some of them are kind of sassy — and it's very entertaining,” Olivia said. “Once you start rereading the fake case, and seeing like where that case law can fit in, that's when you start to formulate your argument.
“Then it's all just about writing it down, then condensing it and rewriting and memorizing, and then actually arguing orally in front of your teammates — and having them ask you really tough questions to prepare you.”
Many members of the team are enrolled in the Department of Political Science course for Moot Court (POLS 385) with Dr. Kinzie Craig, where they explore the case law more deeply and write case briefs.
From Moot Court to law school
All of the preparation has paid off for Olivia — in 2020, she earned a spot at the national Moot Court tournament and advanced to the final four, beating out students from almost 100 other schools. She knows it’ll help her stand out when she applies to law school.
“We're super fortunate to have a wonderful coach (Dr. Craig) who stresses how important collaboration is within our team members, helping each other out, giving advice, asking those hard questions,” Olivia said. “I think that's definitely contributed a lot to our success.”
“This program and Moot Court have prepared me very well for being able to see both sides of an issue, making case briefs, writing appellate briefs, and being able to argue and think on my feet — all of the really invaluable things for what's to come in law school.”
‘I know it seems scary’
On top of her political science classes and Moot Court Team responsibilities, Olivia is double majoring in English and earning a minor in business. She’s also the treasurer for UL Lafayette’s Student Government Association, executive director of The Big Event on campus, a member of Phi Mu, and Dance Marathon.
“I’ve met a lot of great people through all of them, and I think I’ve grown a lot as a person by being a part of them,“ she said. “The advice I would give to other political science students is to branch out and get involved. Don't be afraid to get involved, because I know it seems scary.
“Because if all you're focused on is classes — which, don't get me wrong, we have very interesting classes in political science, all very rewarding and wonderful professors who will definitely help you out and you'll learn what you need to — I think there's something about being involved in the University that helps you appreciate it on an even deeper level.”