McBaine — Frequently Asked Questions

1. Wait, what is McBaine? (TLDR version) 

McBaine is Berkeley Law’s internal honors moot court, appellate-style competition. Think of it like arguing in front of a mock U.S. Supreme Court! 

“Internal” meaning only Berkeley Law students may participate.

“Honors” because it is (as with most rewarding things in life) not easy, and those who participate and benefit from the program should be honored for their hard work and dedication.

2. Wait, what is a moot court competition? Am I even qualified to do such a thing?

A moot court competition is a contest in which law students write briefs and present oral arguments on behalf of hypothetical clients. The issues are very real and substantive, but the stakes are much lower than in live practice. All second- and third-year J.D. students and Traditional Track LL.M. students are qualified and encouraged to participate.

3. But didn’t I miss tryouts? -or- I didn’t make a team! (Are you sure I can participate?)

There are no tryouts for this competition – all second- and third-year J.D. students are welcome and encouraged to participate. Being on an outside competition team is also NOT a requirement for success – in the past, students with no previous moot court experience have made it to the final round and even won the competition.

4. I’m planning on doing transactional law. I’m never going to be in a courtroom. Why should I do this?

All lawyers need to be able to do three things well: read, write, and speak. You will have to do these things even if you are a transactional lawyer: reading and researching while paying attention to detail will help you draw analogies in cases and pick out holes in contracts; writing a brief will force you to improve your clarity and precision so that you don’t draft holes in contracts; and oral argument will give you the chance to spar with some of the finest minds in the area (and the country) so that you can develop your negotiating skills. McBaine is an excellent opportunity for anyone to become a better lawyer in a low-stakes environment and with plenty of feedback from experienced attorneys and fellow students.

5. Why don’t we have partners? I do much better in group work.

This format is designed to ensure that each competitor is individually assessed on his or her work product. It is also an excellent opportunity to really figure out your strengths and weaknesses – which will in turn help you be a better group member when you do group work. You will also have a polished and unique writing sample.

6. Do I have to argue one side of the case in one oral argument round, and then the opposing side in another round?

No. Unlike in many moot court competitions, McBaine competitors will not be required to argue “on side” in one oral argument round and then “off side” in another (i.e. argue for petitioner, then argue for respondent in a subsequent round). In other words, you will be arguing the same position during all rounds of the competition, and this is the same position you will have briefed. This arrangement enables competitors to receive maximum feedback about their presentation skills and the substance of their arguments. In addition, this arrangement most closely models real-world legal practice and gives competitors the experience of advocating for their clients.

7. This sounds really difficult. I don’t think I have the time to do this.

McBaine is certainly a challenge and requires commitment. And you should always be realistic about your time commitments, how you prioritize your energy, and how you operate best. Consider that, after briefs are submitted, you have a potential maximum of about five hours in oral arguments — assuming you advance to the final round. (What a great problem to have!) Even then, you’d actually be speaking for less than half of that time. There is no final exam. You get class credit. You get a writing sample.

8. Ok – let’s do it! How do I sign up for the McBaine Competition?

Make sure to register for McBaine when you sign up for your other classes. Space is strictly limited, so sign up when you can to ensure you have a spot. We will keep a waitlist.

Still have questions? Email