Eric Konopka ’15
Counsel for the Appellees
Eric Konopka ’15 may be the rare Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court finalist who doesn’t want to be a litigator.
“I’m probably an aberration compared to most people who participate in moot courts,” Konopka says. “I don’t want to be a litigator—I want to be a tax lawyer. I’m all in on that.”
Konopka, who majored in finance as an undergraduate at MIT, worked for years at an investment bank, a hedge fund, and a private equity fund before coming to the Law School.
He did get to watch top litigators in action, however, during a summer internship at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division, and, later, while externing at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
At the Department of Justice, Konopka helped run moot courts for division attorneys preparing to argue cases in federal court, and he researched additional background materials to help cover potential questions from the bench. Drafting sections of briefs and research memos helped prepare him for the brief writing section of the Stone Moot Court.
One challenge unique to moot court, however, is anticipating how to respond to not only judges’ questions, but also identifying ahead of time any weaknesses in his argument that opponents are likely to mention in their briefs.
“In a real court, one side submits a brief, then the other side replies to the brief, then the appellant has an opportunity to reply to that,” Konopka says. “Here, we’re doing everything in parallel. So a big part of preparing for oral argument in this setting is having not only the points you want to make, but also knowing what points you need to make to respond to the other side.”
Konopka’s strategy is to know the record and his legal arguments “back and forth” while figuring out how to respond to judges’ questions and steer his argument back to the points he most wants to make.
At Columbia Law School, Konopka served as managing editor of the Columbia Law Review. He was also the treasurer and a director of the Public Interest Law Foundation. Next year, Konopka will clerk for Judge Carlos Bea of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.