Alumna Courtney Klaus ‘20 was recently named Best Oralist after she and her classmate took first place in the Notre Dame 1L Moot Court Tournament.
Klaus graduated from Newman with a bachelor’s degree in both communication and history and a minor in journalism. She was accepted to several law schools around the country.
During her first year at Notre Dame, she concentrated on finding her footing as a law student. She spent time getting to know the people around her while adapting to life as a graduate student in a world still on the heals of a pandemic.
The campus atmosphere is quite different from that of her alma mater and she said pulling from her Newman experience has helped her get more acquainted at Notre Dame.
“I appreciate so much of what I got at Newman and I miss many parts of that small community we had there,” said Klaus. “I feel like a lot of what I got at Newman provided me lessons in vulnerability and communication, and that has really helped me in ways that give me an advantage.”
As for her experience in the Moot Court competition, Klaus said it started as part of a first-year law school course.
A total of 110 students working in pairs participated in the tournament over the course of 10 days. Klaus said not all first-year students take part but several do. Based on their performances, students are invited to join the board and compete intramurally during their second year, also known as their 2L year.
Students have moved on from 2L, competing nationally with Notre Dame Law School’s teams in the National Moot Court competition, the American Bar Association competition, the National Religious Freedom Competition and the Jessup International Law Moot Court competition.
Being selected Best Oralist for the 2021 1L tournament, Klaus has secured a spot on the board for her 2L year.
The Moot Court experience
“Moot Court is a way of engaging within the law school,” said Klaus. “For the tournament, you’re given a case that has already been decided at trial level and you, as an attorney, are convincing the judge whether they should affirm or reverse the court’s decision.”
Participants in the 2021 tournament argued their cases in front of Judge John Robert Blakey of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Competitors write and submit a brief to the judge and then have 10 minutes to argue their case. At any time, the judge can interrupt them and ask for information from a different part of their argument or to elaborate on something they’ve said.
Klaus said that’s what made it challenging. Preparation is key and being well-versed and ready to think fast is what gets the competitors far in the competition.
Klaus said the whole process develops and improves skills in order to be a better attorney. Winning the tournament and being selected Best Oralist was a humbling experience.
“Everyone I competed with did a fantastic job,” said Klaus. “Being selected Best Oralist was extremely validating and honestly made me feel like I deserve to be here. So much of this year has been an extremely intimidating experience. There are some people here from very prestigious places. You go into that world and start to feel like you don’t belong. But knowing I had that in me, that this girl from Wichita, Kansas, could do this — that was empowering and humbling at the same time.”
She said winning the tournament didn’t come without its trials. She felt extremely grateful to have the partner she did and together, they were just trying to make it through every day.
“There was a round that I just completely choked, but my partner got us through. So this process has also taught me to rely on other people when I make a mistake. I couldn’t have done it without Jeremy (Wang).”