Originally published by Lawyer-2B.
Mooting is not as complex as its archaic-sounding name suggests.
Essentially, it’s a simulated court experience in which two teams argue a preset legal issue in front of a judge. It’s a chance for students to practise their research and debating skills — which means it’s excellent preparation for life as a barrister.
Lawyer-2B assembled six experts, including a number of champion mooters, to give their tips on how to get started and how to do well.
Richard Murtagh is an LLM student. He won the 2014 Birmingham Postgraduate Mooting Cup, and the 2013 UKELA Junior Mooting Shield, representing the University of Birmingham. Read his tips below.
To read tips from our other panellists, Click Here.
How did you get into mooting?
I got my first taste at the Middle Temple in 2009. Studying for my LLB with the Open University made it difficult to take part in group activities such as mooting (although things have improved since). So, I joined an Inn of Court early to take advantage of special opportunities for students. One such opportunity was a ‘speed-mooting’ event, where law students from around the country could come together to compete.
Speed-mooting is the same as ordinary mooting, except that it’s, well, speedier! You are presented with a moot problem, and handed a ready-made bundle containing judgments which must be used as authority to support your legal argument. After two hours, you are called to appear before the bench to make oral submissions, and to receive some feedback on your performance.
For the newcomer, speed-mooting can seem like baptism by fire! But looking back, I appreciate how it thrust me into the advocate’s role. Speed-mooting days are organised by various universities as well as the Inns of Court, so get googling.
How should you prepare for a moot?
In my opinion, too many mooters treat the problem as a purely academic exercise. They set to work on spotting legal issues and identifying relevant cases, but they overlook the most important aspect of their case… the client!
Whenever I’m mooting, I try to keep the fate of my client at the forefront of my mind. At appropriate moments, I remind the court that my client’s liberty or money is hanging unjustly in the balance. If done well, this can add moral force to an advocate’s submissions. It surprised me that many of the opponents I faced were much more concerned about the point they were arguing than the injustice to their client, who was (theoretically) paying them to argue it.
Law is an academic discipline, granted. But mooting is a different beast. It’s an exercise in practical advocacy. It’s about using your textbook knowledge to assist a real-life person. So, when you first get the moot problem, take time to really empathise with the client you’re representing — it’ll pay off later.
Have you any key pieces of advice for when you’re in front of the judge?
In the final round of last year’s UKELA tournament, I was in front of Lord Carnwath of the UK Supreme Court. As if this wasn’t intimidating enough, the main precedent that was against me in the moot had been decided and written by Lord Carnwath himself.
Talk about pressure! The judge knew his own judgment inside out, so there was absolutely no room for bluffing. But understanding the decision, and how His Lordship had reached it, enabled me to wriggle out from under its weight to assert my own point of view… and win the moot.
The moral of my story: Prepare for every moot as though you will face the judge who decided the main case that is against you. Taking this approach will force you to think really hard about how your case is different, and why your case should be treated differently.
To read how I won the Birmingham Postgraduate Mooting Cup, Click Here