Kritchevsky: Moot Court Like ‘Law School Sports’

By Houston Cofield

As a law professor for the University Of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School Of Law for more than 25 years, Barbara Kritchevsky has contributed her knowledge of the law by serving as the school’s associate dean and now director of advocacy.


(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Kritchevsky has also served as the faculty adviser to the moot court board, where she said she has seen some of her biggest accomplishments.

“Being able to work closely with students and teach them a skill they didn’t have before coming to law school – and then beating the big schools like Duke and Harvard – is very rewarding,” Kritchevsky said. “I’ve written some articles that I’m proud of, but in terms of passion, the moot court is what I’m really proud of.”

Kritchevsky received an undergraduate degree in political science from Middlebury College in Vermont. She then graduated from Harvard Law School and worked for Drinker, Biddle and Reath LLP for three years before beginning her career as a teacher at the U of M law school.

“I have always wanted to teach, and even from kindergarten, everyone told me I was going to be a teacher. So that’s sort of what I was driving for,” she said.

Kritchevsky has been highly involved in the university’s moot court system, where she teaches students how to work through mock arguments on contemporary legal issues. Students learn how to work on practical issues to get hands-on experience in the courtroom.

“It is very much similar to a Supreme Court argument, and there is an active give and take between the students,” she said.

Kritchevsky said she enjoys the competitive atmospheres the moot courts create as well as competitions.

“Moot courts, in my opinion, are like law school sports,” she said. “We don’t have football or soccer, but there are huge interschool moot court competitions.”

One of Kritchevsky’s roles as moot court faculty adviser is to make sure students are prepared for any question they might be asked in the competitions so they will be ready to give a logical response.

“If there is a soft spot in the argument, I teach them how to approach it so it is not susceptible to being challenged in court,” she said.

Kritchevsky has noticed that with the increased use of legal arbitration-mediation methods, many moot courts around the nation are entering alternative dispute competitions.

“Being able to work closely with students and teach them a skill they didn’t have before coming to law school — and then beating the big schools like Duke and Harvard — is very rewarding.”

–Barbara Kritchevsky
U of M moot court board faculty adviser

Kritchevsky has coached the university’s moot court teams through the national finals of the American Bar Association National Appellate Advocacy Competition, where the team was runner-up to Harvard University, and the National Moot Court Competition where the team was runner-up to Duke University School of Law.

Since the economic downturn, the U of M law school has been trying to stress useful law practices that will help graduates be effective in their careers.

“I think with the job market being down, that is one of the reasons we put more of an emphasis on practical skills to try and graduate practice-ready students who will hit the ground running,” Kritchevsky said.

Another fundamental skill she tries to emphasize to students is writing. Kritchevsky said writing is key to working in law, and many students come into law school with no idea how to express their thoughts with clarity.

“I want to teach them how to be persuasive while being intellectually honest and using the tools of persuasion,” she said.

In addition to Kritchevsky’s interest in law, she enjoys traveling whenever she can. She said whenever she gets an opportunity to travel, she will take it. Her most recent venture was to Iceland a few months ago. She also gets frequent opportunities to travel with the university’s moot court teams.

After 28 years of teaching at the U of M law school, Kritchevsky continues to enjoy her time in the city.

“I’m really glad I ended up in Memphis,” she said. “I never thought I would stay here long, but I have really liked the people here, and we have a great environment for learning.”