Moot (noun): a mock judicial proceeding set up to examine a hypothetical case as an academic exercise.
Yes, that’s the dictionary term for a moot. If you’re a seasoned law student, you should be very familiar with the term. However, if (like me) you’re new to law school, you won’t have a clue what it really means – beyond the dictionary definition. This post aims to enlighten you, based on my recent foray into mooting.
I knew I wanted to try out mooting as soon as I joined university. It’s trumpeted as this amazing opportunity to: boost your CV; gain experience of advocacy; write skeleton arguments; respond to judicial intervention etc.; get to grips with court formalities; get a taste of life as a barrister. And those ‘trumpeters’ weren’t wrong! I highly recommend it – especially if you think you want to become a barrister or have a career as an adversarial advocate.
I entered a novice competition at my university with a fair amount of trepidation and a healthy dose of naivety – thinking it would be a fun few hours and look good on my CV. While this turned out to be partly true, there was a lot of extra work involved and at times, being a complete novice, I felt I was way out of my depth and had made a mistake in entering. Also, what I thought was a fairly chilled out moot, actually was a quite serious competition with multiple rounds in front of career judges. It may surprise you (and it certainly surprised me) that I got through to the semi-finals.
In the hopes that it might help those of you who are as in-the-dark as I was, I’ve come up with a list of helpful hints, truth-bombs and tips.
- It’s a fairly time-consuming extra-curricular activity: as a novice, I’d recommend you only enter one moot competition at a time. You will need to devote many hours to researching the law, getting your skeleton in order and preparing your points.
- Do your research and read the problem thoroughly: when you’re given the moot problem it’s likely to be about an area of law you have not been taught. Don’t panic if you still have no idea after a couple of days – the mists will clear if you put the time in. The library is your friend – accept that fact! If you’re not prepared, and the judge asks you a technical question about the law, you must be able to answer it with some degree of knowledge!
- Memorise the formalities: take some time to understand how to address the judge, your fellow mooters and how to make your submissions. You get major points for using “My Lord/Lady”, “my learned friend” etc. when mooting.
- Dress formally and take note of your body language: this is meant to be taken seriously – dress accordingly and act like you belong in that courtroom!
- Try to find someone who’s mooted before: pick their brains, ask for pointers – don’t be ashamed about being a newbie and asking questions!
- Get your bundle organised: you will have to provide a ‘bundle’ (with your skeleton argument, cases, authorities etc. printed out). Present it clearly, so that the judge can find the passages you will be citing. Sticky notes are a useful way to do this – and try to avoid using highlighters (a lot of judges don’t appreciate neon rainbows). Spend some money on a quality folder too, which you can re-use from moot to moot.
- Be honest if you are challenged by the judge: when responding to judicial intervention it’s fantastic to be able to respond eloquently, while applying the law, using some persuasion and your common-sense. However, if you don’t know the answer, don’t understand the question or have overlooked some key point – admit it. A simple, “No, my Lord” or “Yes, my Lady” or “please would you repeat the question” is much better than getting flustered and fudging your answer.
- Listen to your fellow mooters arguments and read their skeletons: it’s not all about you. If you take note of what your learned friends are saying, you can gain massive points (and valuable learning and advocacy experience) by tweaking your oral arguments or rebutting their submissions if you have the right of response at the end.
These are just a few of the main pointers that should help you if you decide to dip your toe in the rewarding, but sometimes stressful, pool that is mooting. There’s a useful video here that BPP created, which should add some flesh onto the bones of this post.
Above all; give it a go! It’s a fantastic thing to take part in, you’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. Plus, it really is a great thing to add to your CV – especially if you progress.
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