Author: Craig Hunter
On the Diploma in Legal Practice, studying five core courses and three optional ones takes effort. Within a nine-month window, Diploma students are expected to pass all assessments within each in order to satisfy the Law Society requirements of PEAT 1. Learning and applying the knowledge and skills gleamed in a simulated environment constitutes the core of Diploma teaching. But with lectures, tutorial prep, written and oral assessments, traineeship applications, interviews, part time jobs and extra-curricular commitments, is there any time left to moot? Or perhaps the question is not one of time but one of need. Does mooting provide any tangible benefit to Diploma students? Will it place them in good stead for a successful traineeship?
Mooting is about communication. Beginning with a case with fictitious facts, students must prepare and deliver legal submissions to a judge in a bid to persuade them to find in their favour. At its core, mooting develops oratory prowess. Standing up in court, making submissions, citing case law and statutes, answering questions from the bench, attacking the arguments of the opposing side and summarising why craves should be sustained and others repelled. As Diploma students are all too aware, these tasks broadly reflect the oral assessments of both Civil and Criminal Litigation. From moving a motion in Alexander Stone to delivering a plea in mitigation at Glasgow Sheriff Court, students are required to prepare their arguments and deliver them in front of a Sheriff, real or otherwise.
Moreover, any student studying Advanced Civil or Advanced Criminal Litigation would greatly benefit from enhancing their advocacy skills in preparation for the upcoming assessments. But even outside the courtroom, all Diploma courses incorporate elements of advocacy that require students to present in front of their peers. In legal practice, all trainees will have to stand up and deliver reports, presentations, pitches and arguments to colleagues and clients alike and should therefore take every opportunity to practise the skill now.
Identifying and solving legal problems forms the heart of a solicitor’s job. Clients look to their lawyers for solutions and being able to identify and separate issues from the facts is an important skill. With mooting, students are able to develop their attention to detail by honing in on legal issues which arise in the problem. Thereafter, it is up to the partners to brainstorm on how best to solve these issues by reference to cases or statutes. Collaborating with others in order to prepare and present is an essential part of mooting, the diploma and any traineeship. Just as clients expect detailed advice on how to resolve or mitigate their legal problems, so too does the mooting judge require evidence and reasoning in order to be persuaded towards a particular outcome. The very job of a solicitor is encapsulated by the concept of a moot. The added benefit however is that should students lose, there will be no disappointed or disgruntled clients waiting for them at the end.
An advantage of mooting is its ability to help with the dreaded, tongue-tying task of citing cases. From the common Session Cases (S.C.) and Scots Law Times (S.L.T.), to the more obscure Brown’s Supplement to the Dictionary of Decisions of the Court of Session (Bro. Sup.), law reports can prove a tricky business. Finding and correctly citing them, both verbally and in written assignments, plays a major role in competition. As participants must give fair notice of their authorities to the opposing side and provide copies to them and the bench, many develop the skills necessary to succeed in practice. Be it Summary trials in Stranraer or Diets of Proof in Kirkwall, lawyers up and down the country are bound to adhere to these same rules when representing real-life clients. Moreover, as all sides draft their submissions in advance of the moot, competitors are better prepared than most for the relentless drafting duties of PEAT 2. By familiarising themselves with the process and practising the preparation and presentation of written and oral arguments, mooters gain a significant advantage over their future colleagues in the legal profession.
Ultimately, the greatest opportunity afforded to Diploma students who choose to moot is one of time management. Moots run alongside studies and thus require significant planning and diarising so as to ensure all plates remain spinning in the air. Previous competitors haven spoken to time pressures placed on them as they study out of hours for the Dean’s Cup or OUP whilst balancing coursework and exams. On the Diploma, the ability to time manage is critical. Every week assessments are due, IN01s must be completed, Heads of Terms must be drafted, ethical issues must be deduced, and Qualified Acceptances must be uploaded. The purpose behind these assignments is to reflect the daily tasks of trainees and to prepare them now on how best to complete them within the safe confines of academia. In their future-firms, mistakes will undoubtedly be made, but with a greater risk of trainee embarrassment and the fear of reprisal. In this respect, mooting is no different to the Diploma. It provides a safe space for students to practise what to do and what not to do. It allows students to plan their time effectively and balance tasks in order of priority. Just as solicitors juggle a varied and ever-mounting workload, so too will mooters face the real-life drama of absent parties, lost notes, missed cases, probing questions and the much-feared brain-freeze.
In short, mooting will prepare students for a successful traineeship because they must successfully balance competing commitments in order to take part. The true importance of mooting lies not in winning or failing but in finding the time to practise the art of advocacy and all its associated skills. These are necessary not just to pass the Diploma but to excel after graduation. If Diploma students can do that, they will be well on their way to becoming ‘day-one ready’ trainees.
It is never too late moot. If any Diploma students wish to know more, please join the University of Glasgow Mooting Society Facebook page and keep up to date with upcoming events.