Professor Philip M. Genty:
Moot Court Program Director
Philip Genty, the Everett B. Birch Innovative Teaching Clinical Professor in Professional Responsibility, is a 25-year veteran of the Columbia Law School faculty. More than a decade ago he took the helm of the Law School’s Moot Court Program. In that role, Genty, who received the Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2008, has maintained the program’s strong foundation, while nurturing its growth and evolution.
The Law School’s Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison Moot Court Program is very much centered on and driven by its students, Genty says. For the Paul Weiss 1L Foundation and Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Courts, students not only write briefs and present oral arguments, but they also create the case problems themselves. “That’s one of the distinguishing features of our program,” the professor explains. “In many school competitions, students are just handed the decision of the lower court, and they debate from that point. At Columbia Law School, students put together the full trial court record that would come up on an appeal.” Following several moot court events, presiding judges have asked Genty about the origins of the case argued in competition. “When I tell them that a student wrote it, they are just stunned,” he says.
The Moot Court Program also provides a forum for peer-to-peer mentorship among students. “The program creates a real sense of community, and this is also reinforced by the alumni judges who participate each year,” says Genty, who teaches the Briefcraft workshop at the Law School, as well as a prisoners’ rights clinic and a course on professional responsibility. “For me, the students become colleagues, and I think of us as working together to continue improving this program.”
Mentorship and intense student involvement have been defining features of the Law School’s Moot Court Program since it was created by Professor H. Richard Uviller (1929-2005). Before Uviller retired, he handpicked Genty to be his successor.
Building on Uviller’s legacy, Genty, together with Professor Barbara Schatz and Ilene Strauss, the director of Legal Writing Programs, has enhanced the Foundation Year Moot Court, a program reserved for first-year students, by creating a corresponding classroom component: the two-semester Legal Practice Workshop that trains students in legal writing and research. It also teaches the art of persuasion, a skill students will need when arguing their appellate cases to a panel of judges.
Those skills are also necessary for success in the Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court, the Law School’s three-round elimination competition for second- and third-year students, which stretches from October to April. “The Stone competition is a much more extensive process of preparation, performance, and reflection,” says Genty. “Students learn that lawyering is not something you do once. You continue to think about your case and how you can improve and develop your arguments.”
While students who participate in the Law School’s moot court competitions may not become litigators or pursue appellate work, the skills they gain are useful in an array of professional environments. “It’s an opportunity for students to take what they have learned in the abstract and turn it into a practical exercise,” Genty says. “How do you apply the facts? How do you write and speak about your case persuasively? These skills are critical to any area of law they may practice.”