Mooting Top Tips

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Don't show how you're feeling

P-p-p-p-poker face.

Remember if you can’t hold your poker face, this will almost certainly give your opponent the upper hand.

Remain composed and appear confident even though you think your opponent has clinched the argument.

Do not make faces or sigh when your opponent is speaking or when the judge delivers the judgment.

Groan...Thanks to bruckrlb

Take the hint and don't flog a dead horse

Read the judge’s expression. Take a hint and gauge whether your argument is holding water. If the judge does not appear to be accepting your argument, move on!

It would be foolhardy to pursue a line of argument that is not convincing the judge.

It is advisable that you move on to another argument which is most likely to be stronger or finish your submissions altogether if you have nothing more to add.
Know when to take a hint...Thanks to

Make notes

Think about it, if the judge is making notes throughout all of the submissions, it makes sense for you to do the same.

More to the point, you may want to deal with your opponent’s arguments within your own submissions.

Further, if you have a right of reply, you may well need notes to make effective use of this time.

Yikes! I'm running out of time...

If you are running out of time, make sure that you have put forward your main and strongest arguments.

It is far better to leave your weakest arguments to the end which are not pivotal to your argument and make your strongest and most persuasive arguments in full first.

You may of course ask the judge for permission to have a moment or two longer to make any points that you think are important. Do not just assume that you can run over your allocated time as you will be stopped and this may cost you valuable marks.

Know your cases

It happens to the best of us, you know that the case is important but your mind has gone blank and you cannot remember the facts or the ratio of the case.

You need to make notes on all of the cases on which you are relying and know them inside out. You should be fully prepared to provide the judge with a summary of an authority the first time it is cited within the moot.

Certainly offer to provide it anyway…

It's OK to laugh

Knock knock...Moot competitions are formal and should be taken seriously. Remember mooting is an opportunity for you to gain some valuable public speaking experience to prepare you for your future career.

That said, if appropriate, the use of some humour and wit may be OK.

It can create a good impression in front of the judge and increase your confidence.

Don't fret if you have an unarguable case

It may seem like you have an unarguable case in which you are destined to lose, so what is the point of even trying? Well, some of the winners and runner’s up have had what appeared to be an unarguable case.

It is a testament to the mooter’s advocacy skills if they are able to present original arguments and demonstrate how they have applied their research skills.

Loser...Thanks to marthax on

Judges need facts...or do they?

It is important to recount the brief facts of the cases on which you are relying, not least because by doing so the facts make it into the court transcript, but don’t over do it especially if they are very well known cases.

Be wary of going off on a rambling rundown of the facts of the case – this will not demonstrate your hot legal skills to the judge. You have limited time in a moot so use it wisely.

Have a look at some summaries produced by Lord Denning in his judgments for help with this – see British Crane Hire v Ipswich Plant Hire [1975] QB 303

Don't be phased by judicial interventions

The most important skill in advocacy is the ability to defend your arguments against judicial challenge so expect to be challenged. The judge will not just sit there throughout your submission smiling and nodding in agreement with everything you say. Judicial interventions test the limits of your argument and your ability to think on your feet. Judicial interventions can come in all different shapes and sizes throughout your submissions. They can be very long or very short. The important thing to remember is that whilst it can be daunting to be asked these questions, if you have thoroughly prepared, this is your opportunity to shine. Remember, you are not being personally attacked. But what if you have been thrown a complete googly of a question? You can always tell the judge that you need to think about it for a moment and that you will come back to it at the end of your submissions – but do come back to it.

Being able to think on your feet is what the judge is looking for. Don’t be afraid to take your time in formulating your response (just don’t take a few minutes!). The quality of your response is what is important and you are more likely to win over the judge with a confident and considered response rather than a response in which you ramble and have not thought about. INSERT MOVIE 7 CAN USE THE LEARNMORE CLIP 3? OR 4A AND B?

Check out the Judges - Scary or Softies? slideshow for extra footage.

Citing authorities

When delivering your submission you will need to cite authorities to support your arguments. Normally you should cite cases from the law reports, quoting short extracts from judgments where directly relevant.

Exceptionally on controversial or ill-defined points of law, you may wish to refer to academic articles. If so, these must be quoted not as binding authority but merely as persuasive arguments, which you wish to adopt in your submission. You should never quote from student textbooks.

Always cite in full, and don’t underestimate the importance of running through how you actually read a citation out loud before the big event. You can sometimes get a bit tongue-tied. Amazing how screwing up a citation can sap your confidence.

The example here: R v Woollin [1999] 1 AC 82 at 90 would be said aloud as follows: The Crown against Woollin, to be found in the first volume of the Appeal Cases for 1999, starting at page 82. On page 90…

For more instructive clips, check out our roundtable discussion on Using Authorities.

Make a good impression and dress for the occasion

If you want to come across as confident and persuasive, then you better be organised. Use appropriate language and manner and stand up when saying anything. Your hands should not be in your pockets or fiddling with a pen! Make eye contact with the judge and make sure that you are audible and not speaking too fast.

Mooting is a formal event and you should treat it as such. Arrive early, set out your papers, make sure your watch works and dress formally. Moots are formal events and you may even be asked to don a robe.

Male students should wear a dark suit with an a discrete tie – novelty ties are a no –no! Female students should wear a dark coloured trouser/skirt suit or a dress but ladies note the hemline of your skirt or dress! The chances are that you are already nervous, so don’t make your nerves worse by arriving late, getting flustered and looking disorganised. You will create the wrong impression and start from the back foot from the get go.

Check out our roundtable clips for some hints on this from real-live mooters: What to do on the day and What to wear?

Be flexible - don't read from a script

Good advocacy involves being able to think on your feet and delivering your arguments persuasively and with conviction. Do not read religiously from your notes as if your life depended on it. If you read from a script, this will almost certainly detract from the quality of your arguments. You will not engage the judge and your arguments will lack believability. Anyone, who is literate, can read from or memorise a speech. But there is much more to being an advocate than this.

A novice mooter will probably benefit from fairly full notes, as the nerves and novelty of the situation may have a deleterious effect on improvisation. Moot judges have been known to ask counsel to hand their notes up to the bench and continue without them (yikes!). This is not to say that you should not use any notes but rather that you should be familiar with your arguments to ensure that you can be flexible with your arguments both in terms of the order in which you deliver them and the level of detail that you use to explain them. Your notes should contain your arguments summarised into point form: the skill is to elaborate verbally on these basic prompts.

It is very important that you have enough flexibility to be able to chop and change the order as you go along, to handle the judge’s capricious interventions. Barristers in practice, rarely speak from more than the skeleton argument that they have exchanged with the other side. Remember that a good submission is meant not to be an after-dinner speech. It is more akin to a two-way conversation between advocate and judge.

It’s a good idea to have written out an opening phrase, a few key points and a great closing line, so that you give the impression of being in control.

Don't interrupt your opponent

Do not interrupt your opponent at all. It will irritate the judge and make you look like an arrogant ****(insert word of your choice here). It is simply bad form. Remember mooting is a genteel and gentlemanly pursuit – it lacks the rough and tumble aggression of university debating.

Remember we’re not in some cheesy US courtroom drama – you simply can’t jump up and down and shout ‘Objection!’. We English lawyers leave this sort of thing to our American friends and our TV heroes. The only time you should even consider intervening is if your opponent materially incorrectly states the facts (whether of the moot or of an authority). By material, this means that it must be so serious that it would radically alter the nature of the case, and the judge risks error if he continues under the misapprehension.

Be courteous and wait to respond to what your opponent is saying by raising objections during your own submissions, or, if you have already spoken, during the right of reply at the end. Remember obvious errors in your opponents' submission will normally be noticed by the judge anyway. If you really feel that intervention is necessary, get to your feet and look at the judge: do nothing else. The judge will invite your comments if he wants to hear them.

Conclude, don't just fade out

You have spent all this time in impressing the judge with your knowledge and delivery of the arguments, so don’t forget the importance of a strong finish.

Learn some key phrases

Try not to say ‘I think’ – the court isn’t interested in your personal opinion, only in the case you are putting forward – so state your case like this ‘in my submission...’ or ‘I respectfully submit…’

If you absolutely have to correct/disagree with the judge, start your reply with ‘With respect…’ But never interrupt!!!

Thanks guys!

Big thanks to all those who took part in the Crown Office Moot and who agreed to let you learn from their experiences. They are listed below.

Sara Beech, George Fitzgerald, Gareth Thomas, Edward Waldegrave, Alistair Godwin, Rebecca Taverner, Daphne Stamatopoulos, Jada Badu-Animboah, James Bull, Samuel Phillips and Beatrice Riley.

Huge thanks are also due to those from Crown Office Chambers who not only gave up their time to judge the different stages of the moot but also allowed us to use the footage. We are grateful to:

Elizabeth Boon David Myhill Siobhan Lambertsen

A final thanks to The Hon Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart, who judged the final of the Crown Office Moot and Steven McCombe for his filming expertise and tireless editing.