I am often reminded of the opening words of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens when reflecting on the Smith Shield Moot: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”. One of the jarring, yet capitative elements of this famous opening is that it encourages readers to hold space for multiple and conflicting realities. The Smith Shield Moot pushes its participants to do the same.
While mooting, I felt simultaneously prepared and unprepared; confident and insecure; cool as a cucumber and ready to vomit; proud and humble; ready to fight and ready to flee.
“the one thing that kept me going during the moot was the knowledge that I was in a room filled with people who believed in me more than I believed in myself.”
I would not have traded this incoherent cocktail of emotions for the world.
Every year, the Dean (or Associate Dean) addresses the crowd before the moot begins and explains that it is one of our school’s oldest and most celebrated traditions. In previous years, I thought that these words were no more than platitudes – window dressing on an evening with a somewhat elitist tenor. It was not until participating in the Smith Shield that I came to appreciate why it is such a special event, and specifically how it is a direct reflection of the collegial spirit that defines life as a Weldonite.
If one thing characterized my experience as a Smith Shield mooter, it was an overwhelming sense of community. Since 1L, I was fortunate to know upper years who led by example and made me feel like I belonged in law school. Whether it was small gestures like waving and striking up a conversation in the hallway or larger acts of kindness, supportive upper years played an instrumental role in showing me that law school works best when students put their heads together. There is no doubt that, through their actions, upper years ingrained a spirit of collegiality into the class of 2019.
In the weeks leading up to the moot, I received an overwhelming amount of support from my classmates. Without hesitation, fellow Weldonites volunteered to test my ideas during practice rounds, acted as a sounding board for several half-baked legal arguments, and sent along lecture notes when my mind was less occupied with class than it should have been. Quite simply, I would not have been able to stand (somewhat) confidently in front of that podium but for my classmates’ steadfast support and friendship. Indeed, the one thing that kept me going during the moot was the knowledge that I was in a room filled with people who believed in me more than I believed in myself.
Beyond collegiality, one of the most remarkable elements of the Smith Shield is that there is no clear-cut path to selection. Yes, we all completed the 2L moot and went on to try out for the Smith Shield among a group of short-listed candidates. However, beyond this process, each of us developed a passion for oral advocacy on our own terms.
Tina honed her public speaking skills and razor-sharp analytical abilities as a teaching assistant and lecturer in Western University’s English department. As an aside, she would also win the Smith Shield equivalent in baking desserts. Out of this world. Erin has a theatre background, evidenced by her instinctual reaction to the lights turning off in the middle of her arguments: “and… showtime!” Emma spent time in the ‘real world’ (scary) before coming to law school, where she developed common-sense approaches to problem solving. As for me, I am your run-of-the-mill political science nerd that joined debate club during undergrad and never looked back.
In that respect, students and faculty at this school should remember that – unlike so much of the substantive law we learn – there is no test for developing a passion for oral advocacy. What makes our mooting program so special is that it creates space for us to explore elements of ourselves that we would not otherwise take the time to probe. Moreover, it enables us to find our voice in a safe, supportive, and constructive environment. Indeed, there are many talented people who would not have gone on to be Smith Shield mooters or successful litigators if they were allowed to opt out of the mooting program on which our school prides itself.
Truth be told, I am still unsure about the various ways in which the Smith Shield moot has impacted me. Likely, my fellow mooters feel the same way. However, I think I can speak on behalf of all of us by saying that it was an experience that we will not soon forget. Too often, law school can be isolating. The Smith Shield afforded us the unique opportunity to peer beyond our well-worn corners of the law building and work together in pursuit of a common end: not looking stupid in front of the whole school.