One of my favorite lines is from a dark comedy entitled, “Swimming With Sharks.” With the “sharks”reference, you might think it’s about lawyers . It’s actually about the cut-throat world of the Los Angeles movie production industry. In one particular scene, the character, “Buddy Ackerman” a top movie executive, played by Kevin Spacy, is on the phone berating a subordinate over differences in opinion concerning how a movie should be made. He closes with:
“Say this one time with me: “Would you like that in a pump or a loafer?”… Good. Now memorize it, because starting tomorrow, the only job that you’re going to be able to get is selling SHOES! “
While Swimming With Sharks had not been made yet, and not said in quite that way to me, if you changed “selling shoes” to “job after graduation”, that is exactly how I felt as I walked out of my first and last moot court competition at Pitt Law. It would have helped if I was sober. Moot court, meet Jose Cuervo.
What is Moot Court? For the non-legal types reading this book, it is competition between burgeoning litigators, appellate gurus and law students who want to hone their debate and critical thinking skills in various legal subjects. Not a required rite of law school but many voluntarily participate to have their legal arguments and sometimes self worth, verbally hacked to death by law student student judges, professors and sometimes actual judges.
For me, volunteering to participate in a process that would further degrade my sense of self worth was akin to agreeing to be water-boarded. So how did I end up sitting before a moot court panel of law student “judges” trying to argue the in’s and outs of the 4th amendment implications of Illinois vs. Gates. How did I end up drinking before I walked into that room so I muster up the courage to show up for the competition? Much the same reason I ended up in the Marines Officer Candidates School the summer before. If I was able to show up, look those who are trying to break me down in the eye and make and argument. It would fix me. I often wonder if I am the only law student ever to show up for such a competition, probably not legally intoxicated, but certainly not sober. In the history of history, probably not, but I feel safe in saying I am in an “elite” group.
A week later, as we walked I walked out of my post-argument evaluation with the same student judges who smirked and sighed at my incompetency, wondering if they smelled the alcohol on my breath but not really caring, my moot court, partner Eric, said, “I think I did ok. They told me I had the potential to be a star. How did you do?” I said, “about how I expected to do” and walked away thinking about my future selling shoes.