To the uninitiated, tax moot court might sound like a bit of a snoozefest.
Unlike the academic marathon of a spelling bee or the sassy courtroom repartee of "Judge Judy," deliberations over the finer points of U.S. tax code do not make for a lively spectacle.
But to the Charleston School of Law, the 2018 National Tax Moot Court Competition in St. Pete Beach, Florida, was a chance to defend a dynasty. The school's Moot Court Board had won the championship six years in a row leading up to the event on Feb. 1-3, and its team was ready to notch a seventh national title.
Second-year law student Brittany Point, a member of this year's team, said she felt the pressure as her group prepared arguments over the winter months. A former high school athlete, she compared the hours of research to the practice regimen of a basketball team.
"Nothing prepares you for game day," she said. "When you want that game-day excitement or adrenaline, that is moot court for lawyers."
The case they won it on was a fictional one, based on a scenario in which Danny Tanner — the patriarch of the sitcom "Full House" — is diagnosed with cancer and his family transfers his assets to a family limited partnership. Taking turns arguing the sides of the U.S. government and the Tanner family, the teams dealt with the question of whether the maneuver could successfully shelter that wealth from the estate tax.
With the pressure on, Point and her teammates delivered once again. They defeated a dozen other law schools, clinching the final round against the University of Alabama while arguing in front of U.S. Tax Court judges in a hotel terrace overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
"Everybody was looking at us, so it felt good to bring that championship home," Point said.
Charleston School of Law Professor Todd Bruno compared moot court to medical school clinicals.
"In the classroom, we teach them cases, we teach them theory, the principles of law, so the moot court is the actual application of all of that," Bruno said.
Mary Lucas Abraham, a member of the first team to win it all in 2012, said she was proud to see her alma mater defend the title. She now serves as assistant chief counsel at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, where her moot court experience still comes in handy.
"Every meeting that I go into, whether it’s an informal with my boss or it’s a boardroom-type meeting, I prepare the same way I was prepared to train for moot court," she said.
"I use that to this day."