Chief Deputy Solicitor transforms student development through Moot Court
CONTACT: Kenneth A. Brown, OSBA, 800-282-6556 or 614-487-4426
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Oct. 19, 2016) –Attorney Michael Hendershot, Chief Deputy Solicitor in the Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike De Wine, understands the value of providing today’s youth with development opportunities. He had previously served as a local high school debate team coach and as a coach for “We the People,” a civics education program developed by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE). More recently, Hendershot has been a driving force behind Ohio’s Moot Court program, an OCLRE-sponsored competition for high school students that focuses on the appellate court process.
The program stemmed from an idea Hendershot posed while attending a “We the People” showcase in 2012. “The initial seed for the program was a conversation I had with [OCLRE staff member] Tim Kalgreen,” Hendershot said. “I was telling him that, when I was younger, I’d wished for a smaller-scale program that would allow students to present about the law without requiring the large number of students that are needed for mock trial.”
Following their initial conversation, Hendershot and Kalgreen collaborated to turn the idea of a moot court competition into a reality for Ohio students. “OCLRE graciously agreed to pour its resources into this new program, and we started talking to interested teachers and students,” Hendershot said.
In May 2014, OCLRE hosted its inaugural Moot Court Competition at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, with 12 schools in attendance. Since then, the program has continued to grow, as has Hendershot’s involvement. In a role he describes as ‘jack-of-all-trades,’ Hendershot’s Moot Court involvement has ranged from creating the basic structure of the competition and writing ground rules, to consulting about the case problem. To Hendershot, any involvement in the program is rewarding, no matter the task, because he has seen firsthand the benefits the program provides to participants—students as well as professionals.
“The program offers a rare chance for high school students to practice public speaking in front of adults who specialize in the topic they are discussing,” Hendershot said. “Like real appellate arguments, these presentations test several skills, such as critical thinking, reading, reacting to an audience concern, and persuasion.”
Hendershot reports that the most memorable and rewarding Moot Court Competition moments come when students recognize and appreciate the skills they have gained. “A student approached me after a round I judged in 2016, truly grateful for the series of tough questions posed during his speech,” Hendershot recalled.
It’s not only students that benefit from the program, however. Attorney coaches and judges also benefit from involvement in Moot Court, according to Hendershot. He explained, “For legal professionals, Moot Court is a tonic for the jaded, a reminder that we are in good hands with the next generation, and a way to test the first principles of appellate work.” He elaborated, “Any time you teach a skill to someone new, you are forced to think about assumptions you may have held for years. The students’ innocent ‘whys’ are rarely asked by an attorney’s experienced colleagues.”
In the future, Hendershot hopes more Ohio schools will become involved in Moot Court, and that more sitting judges will serve as judges on competition panels.
Hendershot earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and political science from Ohio Wesleyan University, and his law degree from the University of Virginia. He is married with three children and is involved in OCLRE and Central Ohio JDRF.
The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 22,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice.
Editor’s note: Mr. Hendershot’s home zip code is 43221.