An unfortunate truth where mooting is concerned is that, the first time you do it, you are going to be nervous. The trick is not to be put off by that. It doesn’t make you an incompetent mooter, nor a bad person. That being said, if you’re looking to keep that nervousness out of the courtroom, here are a few things you can try.
It may be easier said than done, but you shouldn’t let nervousness mitigate your performance. The fear of the unknown is worse than any other, so try visiting a couple of moots before taking part in your own. The current Mooting Society offers information on moots taking place through Facebook, and they are open to the public. There is no greater use of a prospective mooter’s time than getting used to the process of a moot and the overall feel of the courtroom.
In addition to confidence in your own ability, you should always trust your partner. Believe that they will take care of their arguments so that you can focus on your own (however, when preparing the moot, it does not hurt to help your partner with their arguments or vice versa). Worrying about your own arguments in the moot can be tiring enough. First year mooters may find this easier given that performances are judged individually.
When you receive a mooting problem, there will almost always be one answer. Whichever side of the law you happen to fall on, do not let it shake your confidence. Winning the case does not equate to winning the moot. The latter is only based on your advocacy skills and not the arbitrary question you have been given. In fact, if you are given a difficult situation, try to have fun with it. Moots have been won before by arguing for abolition of the postal rule (as an example), an argument which fell on its face where the actual law was concerned. To this end, there is something else which must be remembered when preparing for, and carrying out, a moot.
Always remember that, above all, a moot is a conversation. The judge is a person – one who deserves respect – but not one who is there to intimidate you. If he or she asks you a question, they are looking for clarification – not trying to trip you up. To this end, the “pen rule” is always useful. As you are talking, watch the judge’s pen. If they are still writing, they are not ready for you to continue. Long pauses may be a sign of respect, rather than one of ignorance. When writing your arguments and practicing your speech, it is useful to imagine you are holding the judge’s hand (metaphorically) and slowly guiding them through your points. While they are almost bound to know more about the law than you, don’t ever assume they’ll know what you are going to say.
Ultimately, the best advice is to do whatever helps you personally. Unfortunately for first year mooters, the greatest way to gain confidence is time. Your second moot is never as scary as your first, no matter how much higher the stakes may be. Remember that it is human to make errors, and even if you are prepared, errors in your first moot are almost inevitable. Only with feedback and practice can the art be perfected. Mooters planning on progressing a mooting career should not be thrown off by their own performance in the first one. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Good things take time.
3rd year LLB