How Practice Makes Perfect for IJ Attorneys

The Robert A. Levy Moot Court Room at IJ HQ 

February 1, 2023

When IJ lawyers go to court, they have to be ready for anything. Although our lawyers always have a presentation they are prepared to give, those scripts can go out the window the moment judges start asking questions. That questioning can be obvious or obscure, on deep constitutional issues or on trivial facts. There’s no way to know until we step up to the lectern. And the best way to prepare for the unknown is to practice. 

These practice sessions are called “moot courts,” and every IJ lawyer does at least two before a court argument, with other IJ lawyers (and sometimes non-lawyers) playing the role of judges. To prepare, our in-house “judges” read hundreds of pages of legal briefing and then ask a broad range of questions, just like real judges do. Meanwhile, the lawyer stands at the lectern and tries to answer persuasively and concisely, all while trying to stay within the time limits the court has set for the argument. 

For years, we held these moot courts in our standard conference rooms. But when we renovated our offices, the number one request from attorneys was to have a dedicated room set up like a courtroom so that we could truly recreate the feeling of arguing in court.  

Thus was born the Levy Moot Court Room, honoring Bob Levy, an ardent IJ supporter and dear friend who served on IJ’s board from 1996 to 2021.

The Levy Moot Court Room has all the trappings of a real courtroom—a lectern with a clock and lights to let lawyers know when their time is up, tables for counsel, and a bench for the judges. Unlike a standard courtroom, though, we also have screens for “judges” participating remotely. And we record all moot courts so lawyers can look back and see which answers worked and which did not. 

This past November through the first part of December, we held 10 moot courts in the Levy Moot Court Room. Then we had three oral arguments on the same day—each lawyer honing their arguments with vigorous questioning in the moot court room. And sure enough, when our lawyers stepped into the real courtroom, they were ready for anything.

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