MSU Law Moot Court Team Gives Top Performance at National Championship

The Hunton Andrews Kurth Moot Court National Championship takes place every year at the end of January, with the 2021 event being held virtually due to COVID-19. Michigan State University College of Law has been invited several times in recent years to compete in the exclusive competition alongside the other top 15 Moot Court programs from across the country.

The experience was brand new for the team of Knox Yellin, ’22, Makenzie Sipes, ’22, and Kyle Lydy, ’21: Lydy, a 3L, was in his first year of Moot Court, competing primarily as a briefwriter; Yellin and Sipes were also new to the scene and marked history for MSU Law as the first 2L oralists sent to this competition.

“Going into it, we knew from the get-go that it was going to be high-stakes and tough competition so in order to prepare for that we put a lot of time and effort in the weeks leading up,” Sipes said. “We spent our evenings working on our arguments, and also, to help us prepare, we had MSU Law alumni, professors, local attorneys and judges sit in on our Zoom meetings and listen to our arguments and ask us great questions so that by the time we got to the competition we felt very prepared.”

“For me and Makenzie, from the oralist perspective, that was our first real competition so we were overprepared and nervous,” Yellin said, “but our first round went really well and then that’s when we had the confidence that we can hang with these people.”

The trio went up against challenging teams from other impressive Moot Court programs, including the George Washington University Law School, William & Mary Law School, American University Washington College of Law, and St. Mary's University School of Law.

During four preliminary rounds and quarterfinals with 15 total judges, either Yellin or Sipes were recognized as the top oralist in the round by every single judge. At the end of the competition, both came away with oralist awards – Yellin in third place and Sipes in second, which included a $1,200 scholarship with her recognition.

“The competition was tough with a lot of great oralists, so receiving the award gave me confidence, especially being a 2L and it being my first time competing at that level,” Sipes said. “But more so than that, I just felt proud that we could secure an oralist award for the first time for MSU and bring some recognition to our program.”

After two days of competing, the team successfully argued their way into the semifinals – an achievement that made them the only MSU Law team to advance beyond the quarterfinals in the College of Law’s history at the competition. They received a trophy as well as a $1,200 scholarship for their placement in the competition and will split the award evenly among them.

“The fact that we were able to do things that were ‘firsts’ for MSU and at one of the top, if not the top, Moot Court championships was really humbling, and it showed all the work that we put in,” Yellin said.

Countless hours of preparation and collaboration culminated in this noteworthy result for Yellin, Sipes, and Lydy, one that they feel proud to have achieved as a team. Yellin and Sipes have yet to meet Lydy in person, but they feel like both teammates and friends after this unique experience together.