By Nnenna N. Olu, Esq.

As I reflect on my time as a student at North Carolina Central University School of Law and the wholesome academic experience that I gained, I am forever grateful for all the pieces that came together to make me the well-rounded attorney I am today. One piece of the puzzle was my membership in the Moot Court Board.  I seized the opportunity to try out to join and was accepted into the prestigious Moot Court Board during my 2L year. The idea of arguing appellate cases was interesting, and I excitedly awaited the opportunity to fully experience what being a member of the Moot Court Board entailed. Competition season finally arrived, and my team and I were registered to represent our school. I quickly realized that we had lots of work to do: legal research, brief writing, more legal research and preparation for oral arguments.

This was a serious project, and I resolved to do my best on my individual assignments and as part of the team to ensure that we were successful. Upon receipt of the case presented, rules guiding the competition, and deadlines, preparations were underway. I familiarized myself with what transpired in the lower courts and researched case law and statutes that would bolster my position. My legal research skills came into play as this was my first “real life” opportunity to practice what I had learned in my legal research classes.

Following our research, was the writing of our succinct, persuasive and legally sound briefs.  After hours of writing, researching and re-writing of briefs, a sound finished product was submitted on time.

Preparation for oral arguments offered what I initially thought was my most unpleasant experience but it turned out to be my most rewarding. Our professors, who graciously volunteered their time to serve as coaches and professional coaches who were hired to assist during this process were, to say the least, brutal (or so I thought).  Where did they get their questions from?  How could they formulate those questions based on the case at hand? How was I supposed to memorize the details of all the case law cited? After each practice session, no matter how prepared I thought I was, I ended up with more work! I shed tears, got frustrated, but at the end I understood that the intense coaching was exactly what we needed. Any faint thought of quitting was quickly squashed because I was being trained to become an excellent attorney, after all.

The weeks of intense practice prepared us to become conversant with our arguments, the nuances of the case at hand, and all the case law and statutes cited. We were prepared to think critically on our feet, to listen carefully and to craft well reasoned responses to the questions asked.  Heading into the competition, we were prepared. All these were done while I maintained the responsibility of studying for and passing all my classes therefore, proper time management was imperative.

During my 3L year, I had the pleasure of serving as the chairperson of the Moot Court Board. With this responsibility, I gained leadership skills. As the chairperson, I made sure that the organization had the resources needed to function effectively. This included, among other things, submitting and following up on our budget proposal to the school, planning fundraising events, planning and hosting recruiting competitions for prospective members, ensuring that our members were provided with great coaches to help prepare them for inter-school competitions as well as making sure that, while away on competitions, our members were as comfortable as possible.

The value of my experience as a member of the Moot Court Board at NCCU School of Law cannot be over emphasized.  I emerged from my Moot Court experience refined. I joined as a shy student who was uncomfortable speaking in public but I came out skilled in verbal communication. I joined as a student who had only taken legal research and writing classes but I emerged having greatly improved on these skills and today I am far from where I started. This experience enlightened me on the dynamics of working as part of a team and the beauty of considering and appreciating what each team member brings to the table in order to reach a successful result.  Furthermore, effective time management, the ability to efficiently multi-task, and prioritize were vital lessons learned. Above all, I emerged fully understanding the incredible importance of preparation, which is what I consider one of the bedrocks of a successful attorney. In order to adequately and competently represent one’s clients or carry out responsibilities, one must be well prepared irrespective of how arduous or easy the process is. Preparation speaks volumes.

Nnenna N. Olu, legal counsel, Liberty Home Healthcare, Inc.