One of the most recognized student groups at the Carolina School of Law, the Holderness Moot Court Bench offers law students a voluntary competitive organization to develop skills in legal research, written preparation, and oral advocacy. The Moot Court team began in 1951 when Professor Bill Aycock coached a team to the national semifinals. Advocacy within the university continues to this day, and Moot Court's influence can been seen in several events. Moot Court sponsors the annual Gressman-Pollit Awards for oral advocacy in conjunction with the UNC Law Research and Writing Program (RRWA). Members also coordinate the annual J. Braxton Craven Competition; a constitutional law competition recognized as one of the most prestigious appellate advocacy competitions nationwide.
Students can become members of Holderness Moot Court via the William B. Aycock Intraschool Moot Court Competition, which is now held in the SPRING SEMESTER of their 1L year. Prospective members may be selected for membership on one of nine competition teams: Client Counseling, Negotiation, Invitational Negotiation, Civil Rights Appellate Advocacy, International Law Appellate Advocacy, Environmental Law Appellate Advocacy, Intellectual Property Law Appellate Advocacy, Corporate Appellate Advocacy, and National Appellate Advocacy. Also selected at that time is the Craven Bench, the panel of members responsible for the administration of the Craven Competition, and the Aycock bench, the panel of members responsible for the administration of the 1L tryout competition, the William B. Aycock Intraschool Moot Court Competition.
Each team focuses on a particular area of law and a distinctive competition format. Students considering trying out for moot court should evaluate which of these formats complement their own interests and talents. There are three types of competitions. The first is the traditional appellate advocacy format, in which two teams argue issues to a panel of judges, similar to the experience first-year students have in the RRWA program. In contrast to the appellate advocacy style competition, the Negotiation and Invitational Negotiation teams engage in direct negotiation with their student adversaries. The only people who speak in a negotiation round are students; judges merely observe and provide after-round analysis. The Client Counseling team competes under a third format. Teams advise a mock client, and judges determine which team best serves the client's needs based on applied legal and personal skills. As in a negotiation setting, the judges play no active role. Unlike the negotiation setting, however, there is no exchange between competing teams.