It is considered an honor to participate in a law school's moot court or law journal programs, but which activity is right for you? These two programs offer very different experiences that are useful when pursuing different paths in the legal profession. Understanding your career goals can help you decide whether involvement is right for you. Nonetheless, moot court and law journal are valuable opportunities to try out a form of practice without having to commit entirely.
Which is More Prestigious?
In many contexts, participation in a school's law journal catches an employer's eye more than participation in moot court. Law journal participation has traditionally been limited to the most talented and successful law students, and an invitation to work on your school's law review is likely to be viewed as a significant accomplishment. Law journal participation may be particularly helpful if you are interested in pursuing a judicial clerkship and other areas of practice that require high-level writing skills and a significant amount of legal research.
Moot court or mock trial participation is not without its fans, however, especially among litigators and small to mid-sized law firms. Larger firms tend to be less concerned about litigation experience because their junior associates will spend years assisting partners with legal matters, gradually obtaining courtroom experience in the process.
Smaller firms, on the other hand, need their litigators to be ready to go to court almost immediately, and advocacy experience can help demonstrate your ability and willingness to argue matters to a judge and jury. Practical experience giving oral arguments can give someone hoping to enter this field a serious advantage.
Of course, there are other factors to consider as well. An introvert may find moot court an ideal opportunity to learn public speaking skills that will be invaluable later in their career. On the other hand, a true extrovert may find the scholarly atmosphere of law journal unexciting and stuffy. Moot court teams often form strong relationships, and participating in moot court competitions offers unique opportunities to network with the lawyers and judges that serve as mentors, coaches, and judges.
Some schools are particularly well known for their law journal or moot court programs. Participation in one of these leading programs is likely to be among the most prestigious opportunities available in law school.
Prominent law journals include:
- Stanford Law Review
- Harvard Law Review
- Columbia Law Review
- Yale Law Journal
- University of Pennsylvania Law Review
- University of Chicago Law Review
According to recent rankings by the University of Houston Law Center, leading moot court teams include:
- University of California-Hastings College of Law
- William and Mary University Law School
- Texas Tech University School of Law
- Stetson University School of Law
Can I Do Both Moot Court and Law Review?
Law school is already a huge time commitment before we start adding electives and extracurricular activities. On top of that, law review and moot court are two of the most time-consuming activities. Some students may wish to participate in both moot court and law journal, but this could prove challenging. In fact, law review and moot court committees at some schools might not even permit it.
Moot court teams meet regularly to practice spotting legal issues, developing and delivering legal arguments, and drafting briefs. They also travel to participate in competitions. Similarly, the law journal team has regular editorial meetings as well as time devoted to legal research, briefing cases, writing notes, proofreading articles, checking citations, and other activities. And if it's your ambition to become editor-in-chief, your time will be in even more demand. Finally, law journals (and some moot court programs) may require that you maintain an exceptionally good GPA in order to qualify for inclusion.
Ideally, your participation in mock trial or law journal will enrich your law school experience and provide you with opportunities to showcase your abilities. Stretching yourself too thin could result in less impressive output and, worse still, negatively impact your grades. Plus, as you move through your law program, there will also be opportunities for internships, externships, and other work experience.
For this reason, most students are best off choosing the activity that suits their personality and goals and committing the rest of their time to their classes.
If you're entering your first year of law school and both activities sound appealing, you stand the best chance of trying both - although we'd advise not trying both at the same time. Most law schools only allow second and third-year students onto law review, but they might permit first-year students to participate in moot court. In this case, a student could benefit from both experiences during their time in law school without overworking themselves. Check in with advisors at your prospective law school to learn more.
Make Informed Decisions
Law school is full of important decisions and critical crossroads. Although you will always be the person best able to determine the right course for yourself, you'll make the decisions that result in a happy and successful legal career when you are well-informed. Explore FindLaw for Law Students' helpful articles on choosing a law school, studying for exams, preparing for the LSAT, taking the bar exam, and so much more.