BRIAN KOPPEN'S
LAW SCHOOL ADVOCACY
Per National Jurist magazine, Houston ranked itself 13th best moot court program in nation.
Dear University of Houston Law Center & Blakely Advocacy Institute:

The purpose of this open letter is to inform you, institutions which surely have an
interest in building credibility, that you may be ill-advised to continue in your
attempt to brand your so-called Moot Court National Championship as follows:

The Championship: A Moot Court Competition to determine the “best of the best” Moot
Court programs.  http://www.law.uh.edu/blakely/mcnc/homepage.html.

I wouldn’t have an issue if your slogan acknowledged that your invitational
competition merely crowns the “best
team out of those showing up.”  But the best
program (out of 100+)? You're not even close.

Perhaps the most concerning thing about your slogan is that it operates to exclude
South Texas (it not having won “The Championship”), which has always been, without
question, the best moot court program.  

Why does that concern me? Well… doesn’t Houston compete directly with Houston-based
South Texas for exactly the same students? And now the University of Houston, forever
living in the shadow of South Texas’ moot court program, has for three years straight
managed to crown a “best moot court program” other than South Texas?

Most if not all program directors would admit that South Texas has had the best moot
court program for a long time.  Texas Tech’s advocacy director, Professor Robert
Sherwin, has written that South Texas boasts “the most successful moot court program
of all time (by a long shot).”  http://www.thebenchbrief.com/2009/03/ranker-is-now-
blogger.html.  In fact, it was the first U.S. law school to win 100 advocacy titles.  
http://www.setexasrecord.com/news/211018-south-texas-college-of-law-first-in-u.s.-to-
win-100-national-advocacy-titles.  And yet, Houston has never crowned it the best moot
court program.  By contrast, my ranking, which aggregates each program’s top finishes
(across teams), has recognized South Texas as the best moot court program four years
running.  

Houston might more credibly name “the best moot court program,” if all of the top
programs each sent several teams to your invitational competition.  However, first,
many programs don’t accept your invitations; and second, those accepting their invites
are sending “representatives” of varying levels of excellence.  

With respect to the former – that is, top programs not sending any team – how can
Houston lay claim to anything at all when WUSTL and UC Hastings haven’t regularly
attended? It’s as if Houston would have crowned the Patriots Super Bowl Champions
without having them first compete against the Giants for the honor.

Regarding the latter – participating programs not sending their very best teams –
Texas Tech’s advocacy director, Professor Robert Sherwin, has admitted “…I send my
very best team to the NMCC and ABA NAAC…”  See, http://therankerblog.blogspot.
com/2010/03/ranker-v-bench-brief.html.  I imagine there are a significant number of
programs that don’t send their very best team to Houston.  

Why should they? In arriving at its list of invitees, Houston first ranks the
programs; in doing so, it stratifies the competitions by prestige (ABA NAAC and NMCC
chief among them).  So to be invited to your "Championship," programs will target with
their very best teams the ABA NAAC and NMCC, sending their lesser teams to your so-
called Championship.  

In addition, NMCC occurs at approximately the same time as your “Championship.”  
Perhaps the lesser of your invitees, like DePaul, which has no hope of ever winning
either NMCC or ABA NAAC, would send their very best teams to Houston; however, this is
unfair to your other participants, many of which are competitive at one or both of the
historically prestigious affairs mentioned above.     

Regardless of timing, moot court programs have limited budgets.  Thus, in order for
Program X to be crowned “best of the best,” it could be forced to skip the
competitions you deem prestigious, ABA NAAC and/or NYC Bar NMC.  Why skip either of
those, let alone for Houston’s recently formed invitational? My question exactly.  
Regardless, doing so would decrease their chances to receive Houston’s invite the
following year.  

That’s like asking the Giants: Will you please skip the Super Bowl in order to attend
an exhibition game recently organized by the Jets? (Since the above-referenced
National Jurist article cites to both of our rankings, it’s relevant to note that my
ranking awards no points for top finishes at your competition [because yours is an
invitational].)     

It helps to consider the NFL’s Pro Bowl:

  • Is the MVP of the Pro Bowl automatically considered the best player in the NFL?
    Never.  Why? Because a substantial number of the best players don’t even play in
    the Pro Bowl.  (In fact, the 2010 and 2011 Pro Bowls were played the week before
    the corresponding Super Bowls.  Likewise, Houston’s invitational has been held
    the weekend before NMCC’s national finals.)  Among those that do, many don’t play
    “all out.”

  • Even if all the best players did play, doing so with 100% effort, would the 6-10
    Dolphins become the "best team in the NFL" simply because Brandon Marshall is
    named MVP of the Pro Bowl? Hardly.  In fact, Mr. Brandon "6 TDs in the Pro Bowl"
    Marshall grabbed only 4 TDs all regular season.  Hilariously, in a statement that
    could have been made by St. Louis University after making the finals with South
    Texas, Brandon Marshall stated as follows: "You know what? I wanted it," he said.
    "It's a Pro Bowl. Some guys are playing 100 (percent), some guys are playing 90,
    some guys aren't playing at all...."

  • Blowing the similarities to the Pro Bowl, the location of your “Championship” is
    Houston.  The Pro Bowl? Hawaii.  To add relevant contrast: the locations of NMCC
    and ABA NAAC are New York City and Chicago, respectively.

And who is Houston to name the best program? Houston’s ranking depends heavily on your
valuation of other competitions’ prestige.  The valuation is subjective.  So it would
improve credibility if Houston were an authority on moot court excellence.  It’s not.  
Houston's record of moot court performance is actually quite bad.  

In my ranking – which depends not at all on teams' willingness to show up and pay me
money – Houston recently ranked 105th out of 114 programs (2011).

As further proof of Houston’s discerning eye, it has invited DePaul to compete.  
http://www.memphis.edu/law/news/mtctinvite.php.  DePaul’s moot court program is nearly
as bad as Houston’s.  Yet Houston deemed it Top 16 in the country.  DePaul is not even
top three among Chicago’s five law schools.  (John Marshall, Loyola and Chicago-Kent
are.)

More than that, Houston has gone so far as to crown Detroit Mercy “best of the best.”  
http://www.law.udmercy.edu/news_events/docket/2009/mootcourt.php.  By contrast, in my
2009 ranking, Detroit Mercy tied for 96th best (out of 124 programs); in 2010, it was
78th out of 105.

Houston, please give your slogan a break.  You could use the credibility.

Sincerely,
Brian Koppen, Founder/Ranker, LawSchoolAdvocacy.com
UPDATE:

So after all my griping, University of Houston sees fit to give the thing to South
Texas for the first time.  (Advocacy director competing there: "But I'm still
disappointed that Houston chooses to run a behind-closed-doors competition...").

And which program does South Texas need to take down to be crowned "best of the best"?
St. Louis University.  And here's St. Louis, by the numbers:

2011: Unranked out of 114 programs.
2007: 65th out of 69 programs ranked.
2008: 54th out of 82 programs ranked.
2009: 42nd out of 124 programs ranked.
2010: 34th out of 105 programs ranked.
Where are the objective Law School Advocacy rankings for 2007-2012? Click.