In just a matter of months, Harmon Gill went from not knowing a lot about moot court competitions to co-founding USC’s chapter and leading a team to qualify for national tournaments.
The Southern California Moot Court, founded in Fall 2019, has already accomplished many feats, such as two 3rd place finishes at the American Moot Court Association National Tournament. In addition to the skills and experiences that SCMC provides its members as undergraduates, students can now also participate in SCMC while earning college credit through the new WRIT 340 moot court section and a writing elective WRIT 499 “Practical Argumentation.” Thanks to writing deparment Professor Antonio Elefano, students can earn credit for a required writing class, while representing USC in competition at the same time.
“Universities exist to support students so when students formed this organization. They built it from the ground up and then they raised it to greatness,” Elefano said. “I viewed it as my responsibility and USC’s responsibility to support it.”
While Elefano’s former students were busy preparing for their 2020 tournament season, he went to the writing program curriculum committee with a pitch.
“I teach legal writing classes at USC,” Elefano said. “The principles of moot court are exactly the same skills that I teach in my legal writing classes already. The only [differences are] that in my legal writing classes that I currently teach right now, I make up the fact patterns, and I choose the case law.”
The fairly new organization has grown significantly from its founding four members to a current team of 24. Vibhav Laud, a freshman majoring in biochemistry, placed second best speaker overall in the Western Region out of 60 speakers. Laud and his partner also made it to the American Moot Court Association National Tournament where they lost to the No. 1 seed in the sweet 16.
Trojans avenged fellow Trojans in that tournament where Gill, a senior majoring in communications, placed 3rd in the nation for the second year in a row. Gill had planned to not compete and solely serve as a leader and coach, but when another member could not compete at the last minute, Gill stepped in.
“That’s the only way leadership works, you have got to put the ego aside … this is bigger than me. This is about teaching, and imparting a set of skills, giving folks a toolbox to be able to learn about the law,” Gill said. “That is far too important, and I am invested in making sure [that] the organization is right and we have the structures in place, the curriculum in place, and everything else right to support our organization. I hope this tradition of excellence continues on for years to come.”
Gill said he believes in the importance of making sure SCMC is a part of USC for good as he considers it to be one of the best opportunities for pre-law students. According to their website, moot court provides students an edge in law school admissions, law school, legal practice and even public speaking and legal advocacy.
“We teach you how to think like a lawyer, how to write like a lawyer and how to argue like a lawyer,” Gill said. “We teach you how to analyze a legal problem and how to pick apart arguments … from writing the actual legal brief to training for oral argument we teach you how to be an effective advocate in front of a panel of judges.”
SCMC is not only for pre-law students — many students of varying majors and career plans have participated. SCMC Secretary Maya Fransz-Myers, a senior majoring in political economy, said she isn’t planning to go to law school.
“I think it is ironic because I am a part of so many pre-law organizations … but I am actually…