Professor Philip M. Genty:
Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Faculty Director
Philip M. Genty, the Everett B. Birch Innovative Teaching Clinical Professor in Professional Responsibility, joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 1989. He is the director of the Incarceration and the Family Clinic and also teaches Civil Procedure and Professional Responsibility Issues in Public Interest Practice.
In 2008, Columbia Law School students awarded Genty the Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and, in 2014, he received a Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University. Genty took the helm of the Law School’s Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Program more than 15 years ago. In that role, he 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 Stone program, as well as the 1L Program run by Ilene Strauss, director of legal writing and moot court programs, 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,” Genty 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. “For Ilene Strauss and me, the students become colleagues, and we feel that we are all 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 the late Professor H. Richard Uviller.
Legal writing and research and the art of persuasion are the skills 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 an intensive 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.”