This advice piece is written to raise attention to certain things that I would have done, or certain steps I would have taken to familiarise myself with the world of mooting before jumping in.
I will divide this piece into two parts: firstly, advice for prior to the mooting and then, secondly, advice for during the mooting.
Prior to the Moot:
It is important to take your time and familiarise yourself with the conventions and the rules that underpin mooting. For example, learn the structure or overview of the moot. It’s important to know where you enter into the picture; at what point you need to speak; and how you should approach your argument’s structure. A lot of this can be already found on various mooting guideline documents but my personal experience will hopefully compound the relevancy of the guidelines.
- Make sure you incorporate the mooting structure into your argument. It should flow symbiotically. This means that, once you have your structured argument – insert it into the mooting structure. One such structure can be found on the Monday Mooting Guideline document.
- Following from this: get comfortable with mooting terminology. You will need to call the judge My Lord/Lady or Your Lordship/Ladyship. Moreover, use phrases such as “I submit that” or “It is my argument that”. It’s not a huge loss by forgetting to say these phrases, especially ones such as “I submit that”, but it gives a sense of put-togetherness and respect.
- Go to the wonderful Ellen, the librarian in the workshop, early to get copies for each authority you use. Both times I have mooted I have managed to mess this part up. Being organised in this way will put you on the good side of the judge and the librarian. Alternatively, you can print these out yourself via Westlaw – but be sure to use the PDF versions so that the paragraphs are correctly numbered!
During the Moot:
- I’ll say it here first, because it’s at the very beginning – make eye contact with the judge when you are introducing yourself. By not making eye contact, even if it’s to keep yourself on track from the offset, you are instead introducing an air of timidity and perhaps, even, a lack of self-belief in your ability to lead your argument progressively on. Plus, it’s just good manners.
- From my personal advice: structure your argument chronologically. Take each substantive point in law and go through it one-by-one. Even go as far as using the terminology synonymous with that – firstly, secondly… By doing this you can introduce the law, and then cite the cases that legitimise your case.
The reason for this is that (and I’ve been told personally) the judges find it easier to follow the structure of your argument and for both parties – yourself and the judge – it provides coherency and flow.
- Even though it’s easier said than done; don’t speak too fast when you’re mooting. But, honestly, take your time when it comes to laying out your argument. One reason for this is because as you cite your arguments and authorities, the monologue will quickly transition into a dialogue with the judge. He/she will interject, rebut, or question your line of argument, and you will have to reply. It becomes a conversation, and if you’re going too fast you will get too far ahead to deal with the issue the judge presently wants to question.
- Leading onto a similar point: you can take your time when thinking and replying to the judge. When he/she interjects, it’s okay to pause for a few seconds and think of a reply. Yes, it’s an attractive quality to think on the spot – but not when you end up making an error because you’ve jumped the gun. I experienced this early on, and if you find it within your ability to pause and think of a reply, you will most often come off better reasoned and more impressive.
- Make sure you know your authorities for where they are cited, and if applicable, which judges you are quoting. It can become awkward and unflattering when you are forced to admit you lifted straight from the book, and thus, unfamiliar with exactly where the judge cited their data.
- If a judge probes a certain point of law that you have used in your argument, and you are finding it hard to rebut their interjection; try to restate your legal case in a concise way. You can use strategies such as an attempt to distinguish your case like identifying a unique quality, or something along these lines. Also, another typical strategy would be to clarify the changing or manipulation of the law as in the interests of society; that the law does not reflect societal changes or attitudes. Similarly (if you’re, say, the respondent arguing against the appellants), you could say the law is rigid for a reason: and that relaxing the law in this particular area would “open the floodgates”.
Hopefully some of this helps you as you are preparing for the Obligations 1B moot. In general, I think many of these are common worries which arise before mooting – and that reading this will help tackle or resolve certain insecurities to the process; structure of your argument; and tools to keep you stable as progress through the moot.
1st year LLB