So, there you are. You’ve got your scenario, partner and time-slot, you’ve been to the lectures, read all the advice, written the book, watched the film and bought the t-shirt. The prep is done and dusted and all that’s left to do now is… well… moot!
No doubt some of you feel confident and composed in the face of this challenge – the idea of getting up in front of someone to make your point comes as naturally to you as breathing. If this applies to you, then congratulations. Self-assurance, especially if mooting is new to you, in no mean feat, and your confidence will come across in your argument.
For others among you though, the prospect may be less enticing. All the preparation in the world won’t stop your brain from running through everything you could possibly do wrong, both conceivably (‘what if I forget the case name?’) and inconceivably (‘what if I inadvertently set the courtroom on fire/ insult the judge’s mother/ bring about the apocalypse?’)
However, never fear, because I am here to tell you that there is practically nothing you could do that your judge won’t have seen before; and, moreover, even if one of these scenarios were to play out in real life, it’s not actually the end of the world. Unless you actually do bring out the apocalypse, which is, I think it’s safe to say, pretty unlikely.
So, without further ado, here are a few tales of things which have definitely already happened to people in the moot court, and why you shouldn’t worry about them.
- Calling the judge something other than ‘My Lord/ Lady’
I’ll come straight out and say it, this one was me. Clearly, I had watched one too many episodes of Judge Judy. Suddenly, mid-moot, I found myself stammering through an apology after referring to Dr Bogle as ‘Your Honour’ rather than ‘My Lord’ while he looked on, bemused. This is a classic mistake. Until this point, most of the knowledge of courtroom etiquette you have will likely be from what you see in Hollywood movies and TV shows. While you deep down you know that your simple moot is a far cry from a re-enactment of The People vs OJ Simpson, it is, in truth, very easy to get carried away and slip up. Your judge might crack a smile, or simply not react, but either way, don’t panic. A quick “pardon me, I meant to say ‘My Lord’” is all that is required. All will be forgiven, as Dr Bogle forgave me. I didn’t even have to bribe him with cake.
2. Forgetting a case name
It’s probably a good idea to have a note of your case names, as well as their basic facts, the level or court and the names of the judges. Have these in front of you, available for easy reference, and you won’t go far wrong. However, say the judge asks a question you don’t know the answer to. If this is a question about reasoning, then by all means reason it out, but if the answer is a fact you don’t know, or you absolutely can’t figure it out, then there are a couple of things you can do:
- Don’t stress. Remain cool and calm, and don’t let them see that they’ve flustered you. Take a moment to think the question over and then act. This sort of thing happens even to fully qualified lawyers, so it’s important that you can deal with it. They’ll admire the fact that you can cope with the unexpected.
- Don’t make it up. Don’t fabricate facts if you simply don’t know the answer. I promise, your judge will know that you’re making it up, and any and all credibility you have gained throughout the moot will go out the window.
- Politely tell them that you’re unsure of the answer. Generally, a simple “I’m afraid I cannot answer that question at this time” is a pretty good way to go. It’s polite, succinct, and you’re not labouring the point. With any luck, you can then swiftly move back to your argument!
I would like to make the point however that this is something that you can avoid through prep. Think of the sort of questions they might ask you, everything you can think of from the routine to the obscure. Prepare for those questions, and I promise things will be okay – even if you don’t get one question right, your knowledge on other ones will shine through.
Yes, this has happened, and no, it’s not worth it. If you put the work in, follow the advice and do your best, then you will be alright mark-wise. There is nothing about this moot that is worth crying over. Shake it off, keep your cool and carry on. If things do get a bit too much on the day, just take a moment, take a breath, take a drink of water, and calm down. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Everything is going to be okay.
So, those are a few real-life, tried-and-tested scenarios. Of course, there are other ones, but the advice for any of them really is pretty similar. If you remain calm, think logically about what you should do and let it go afterwards then I defy anyone who tells me that there is a situation that can’t be dealt with.
Finally, don’t forget that this experience is supposed to be an introduction into mooting, and as such, it might be an idea to try and enjoy yourself. You might discover a new love or hidden talent, and even if you don’t, by the time you feel as old as I feel, I promise you’ll laugh over the fact you even worried about it.
3rd year LLB