Ilana Diamond Rovner Program in Appellate Advocacy

The Ilana Diamond Rovner Program in Appellate Advocacy provides sophisticated and systematic training in appellate advocacy for students in the Chicago-Kent Moot Court Honor Society. Named for the Honorable Ilana Diamond Rovner, a 1966 graduate of the College of Law and current Associate Justice on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the program is a joint effort of the students, alumnae/i, staff, and faculty of the law school. Students in the program complete intensive coursework in appellate litigation, compete in intramural competitions, and represent the law school in top appellate advocacy tournaments throughout the United States.

The demanding selection process for the Rovner Program garners the enthusiastic participation of a large number of Chicago-Kent students. New members are accepted into the Society only after demonstrating exceptional potential in written and oral advocacy, as well as superior academic aptitude. Invitations to join the Society are extended each year to the top advocates in the law school’s first-year Charles Evans Hughes Moot Court Competition and the Society’s Summer Candidacy Program, provided they satisfy other academic criteria.

Students selected for the Rovner Program enroll in Appellate Advocacy, generally in the fall semester of their second year. The course contains segments on advanced brief writing, advanced research skills, and oral argument; it builds upon Chicago-Kent’s first-year legal writing and research courses. Students who distinguish themselves in the course will go on to represent Chicago-Kent in national interscholastic moot court competitions.

The students in the course receive personalized instruction in brief writing, including detailed, one-on-one critique of their work. The students are divided into small groups for oral argument instruction, which includes videotaping each student and critiquing that videotaped performance.

The centerpiece of the course is the Ilana Diamond Rovner Appellate Advocacy Competition. Each student prepares a brief on a significant appellate issue, as well as an oral argument on both sides of that issue. Students present those arguments before panels that consist of Chicago-Kent professors, practicing attorneys, and third-year students with significant moot court experience. The top eight students in the first round compete in a quarterfinal round. The top four students then compete in a semi-final round, from which two students are selected to argue in the final round before a panel that has included renowned federal and state judges and academics. In November 2006, the final round argument was heard by the Hon. Richard Cudahy and the Hon. Ilana Diamond Rovner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, along with Prof. Joan Steinman, Distinguished Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Three scholarships are presented at the conclusion of the competition. The Ilana Diamond Rovner Award for Outstanding Appellate Advocate is given to the student with the highest combined brief and oral argument scores; the Ralph L. Brill Award is presented to the student who wrote the best brief; and the Fay Clayton Award is presented to the student with the best oral argument performance.

Students who have completed the course in Appellate Advocacy are eligible to be selected to represent Chicago-Kent and the Rovner Program in interscholastic competition.