The scary world of authorities: referring, referencing and other stories – Josh Speirs

I was always half-decent at public speaking, so I thought mooting would come naturally – I was wrong. My first year moot was an absolute nightmare. I was junior counsel for the respondent on a problem that was so one-sided, we really should have walked in and asked to settle out of court. Beforehand, I went to one of the Mooting Society’s workshops to see what the script was so I felt kind of prepared. It was the usual spiel – refer to your partner as your “learned colleague”, the opposing team as your “learned friends” and the judge as “my lord” or “your lordship”. When using authorities cite them fully – so for example the citation may be Burnley v Alford 1919 2 S.L.T. 123, but when you’re mooting, you would say something along the lines of “If I could draw your Lordship’s attention to the case of Burnley against Alford as reported at page 123 of the 2nd Volume of the 1919 Edition of the Scots Law Times.” To break it down it goes

*Name* against/and *Name* (‘against’ is for Scottish cases; ‘and’ is for English cases)

Page number



Law report.

To get the volume, look for a number between the year and name of the law report. Taking the example of Burnley v Alford, there’s a “2” between “1919” and “S.L.T” meaning it’s the 2nd volume. When there’s no number there – it’s the first volume. That’s sort of the basic housekeeping when it comes to referencing – the only other thing I’d add is if you’re printing the cases off, try to make sure you’re printing of the actual case as it has been reported – not the Westlaw version – normally there will be a pdf icon in the corner of the Westlaw screen – that’s where to get it.

The one thing I would totally recommend however, from personal experience, and this probably goes against everything that’s you’ve been told about mooting, is have a speech prepared. For your first year moot especially. Have. A. Speech. Prepared. The advice given to me in first year was “try to use notes and not prepare a speech.” That’s what I tried to do to and it was one of the worst decisions ever made. I was the second person to speak in my first year moot and my opposing counsel stood up and gave a proper, well-prepared, well-rehearsed speech and I was sitting in my chair wanting the world to swallow my. There is absolutely no shame in preparing I speech – I made it to the final of the Dean’s Cup last year and both me and my partner used speeches all the way through. Saying that, in almost all of the rounds I got chinned off the judge for using it, but the reality is, if you’re not confident enough to use notes, there’s no other way to go. I know they tell you to use notes because the judge might interrupt you and you could lose your place or your flow but if you know your stuff, you can adapt. I literally can’t stress this enough. It’s your first year moot. You just need to pass. Don’t take the chance. Prepare a speech. God Speed.

Dress smartly and don’t have chewing gum – it might be an urban legend that people have failed for not doing this but again – don’t take the chance.


-Josh Speirs

4th year LLB

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