The disappointment of the previous moot hit quite hard – as I imagine it must feel to practising solicitors and barristers when a client (or case) that they truly believe in receives what they feel to be an unfair result. It wasn’t solely the intense disappointment at feeling that somehow our own skill was not to be rewarded with success, but also the feeling that cumulatively five weeks out of my final year at University had been frustrated away from me by one wrong decision.
In quite a contrast to other national mooting competitions, the Web Legal Competition is quite different. For example, in each round that we have been drawn in, Web Legal have contacted and arranged a judge. It’s common practice that whomever is the home team arranges the judge, subject of course to approval from the other side which is usually a formality. So to have the task of finding a judge removed was quite liberating in some regards. When the judge arrived, we had not previously met her. In the lead-up to meeting the judge, however, we had some questions to ask because of some uncertainties with the rules on our part.
Personally I didn’t like asking them, even though I knew we had agreed to ask them, because having previously been a visitor to another University where they were nice enough but crowded round our table to ask us to modify the rules of the moot slightly, it can feel like an ambush – especially when you don’t expect meeting the judge before the moot to last longer than a salutory greeting. If our opponents felt ambushed, it certainly didn’t come across and I was happy that it started off amicable and would continue to be so.
Turning to the moot, I was aware that I needed to start off well. I don’t feel I started well, and this seemed to be shared by the view of the audience members I spoke to. Had things been different I would have spent more time preparing my start so that it wasn’t shaky but I couldn’t change it during the moot. Once I got into my flow, the card warning me that there was three minutes left was put up. Panic. Three minutes and I didn’t even feel as though I had I had covered my best points.
I don’t advise mooters to do what I did because it was a gamble – a gamble that fortunately paid off in this instance, but in most circumstances I struggle to believe that it would pay off. I put down my bundle and abandoned the very formal structure I had thus far adopted and just spoke to the judge about my points. The reply from my opponents was well put, but on one particular point, in my reply, I took the time to address the point made. I said why I thought the point which they relied on had no application in the case before the court which, from what I am told, the judge seemed to agree with. The standard of advocacy from our opponents was quite high and, no matter who won, both teams would be able to say that the team they competed against was of a good standard.
When the judge came to announce the decision, I was apprehensive and thought that it was going to be close (even though it is a cliche of mooting to hear that it is close). We had won the appeal and suddenly I was concerned because normally, in my experience, you don’t win both the appeal and the moot. Then the judge announced that we were the ‘better mooters’ and a part of me still didn’t realise we had won until the judge stopped speaking. Normally there is some sort of ‘And the winners are…’ however, this was much more subtle and restrained. Just as it should have been.
Liam is representing his academic institution, Birmingham City University, in the Web Legal National Mooting Competition.