What is it Moot?
Moot courts have been around since the late 1700s. They’re a law school competition where students play the role of counsel in a mock legal hearing, preparing and arguing cases in front of a judge. It’s very different to a mock trial. Basically, two pairs of students compete against each other as if appearing before the court of appeal or supreme court. At the end, the judge gives a short ruling and decides which pair were the best mooters.
How does it work?
The moot court mirrors the processes of an actual court, with formal language, etiquette and modes of address – so the judge is referred to as “My Lord/Lady” and fellow mooters as “my learned friend”. Everyone stands up when the judge comes in, the mooters and the judge bow to each other and a clerk announces the matter, before battle commences.
How do you win?
Before the day itself, students are given a legal problem and told which side they are to speak for. The advocate’s aim is then to persuade the court of their case. Mooters must go away and prepare their case, looking up any relevant areas of law and key cases to help prepare their argument.
“There’s an old saying that cases are won in chambers not in court – the same applies with mooting,” says Niall Coghlan, a barrister who coached City University to victory in the 2017 European law moot court competition. “You need to have a done a lot of background work.”
But you also have to be a convincing public speaker. Mooters present submissions but the judge can ask questions at any time, so you need to be alert and able to engage spontaneously with the bench. It’s hard to do that effectively if you’re just reading aloud from a pre-prepared speech.
How do you prepare?
Abhishek Lalji was a finalist in the 2016 National Student Law Society mooting competition and is now on the bar professional training course at BPP. His advice is to meet with your mooting partner regularly to compare notes and bounce ideas off each other. Once you’ve honed your argument, the key is practise, practise, practise.
“There is no way to know how a submission or ground of appeal/response will sound unless it is actually presented,” he says, “so practise your delivery to polish your performance”.
It can be time-consuming: Lalji says he spent 10 hours a week on research, meetings and rehearsals. But the time and intensity of moots varies depending on the level – speed moots, for instance, need much less preparation.
Advice for the moot itself
Whatever speed you think you talk at, slow down. Make eye contact with the judge and watch their pen – it will give you an indication of whether you are going too quickly. If they are taking a note, speak slower so they can write down all your winning points.
Advocacy is about finding your own voice. Different people have different styles – some are scholarly and understated, others are more flamboyant. It’s a good basic rule, though, that simplicity is best when it comes to the art of persuasion – so avoid unnecessarily complicated language.
A good advocate should also not be afraid of silence. Use it for dramatic effect when presenting a particularly crucial point. A strategically timed sip of water might be a powerful and cunning strategy
And if there’s one tip I’d insist upon, it’s never, ever talk while the judge is talking.
Where can I start?
Most university law schools have a mooting society – organised by the fantastically named “moot master” or “moot mistress” (secretary, to you and me). The four inns of court in London all have mooting clubs, too, so students can try it out at all levels. Or you could jump straight in and go for it at a regional or and national competition.
Why should I get involved?
With the fierce competition for pupillages and training contracts, many see mooting as an essential experience, particularly for students who want to become barristers or solicitor advocates.
Aside from the experience, mooting offers networking opportunities and some European moots even include internships as prizes.
Besides, win or lose, there’s usually wine at the end.
Source: The guardian
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