I don’t know whether it was because of the Olympics coverage or whether it was the realisation that it was the final, but leading up to the moot, when I wasn’t thinking about my argument, I allowed myself to think forward to the final and how it might end. Winner, or runner up. Either outcome was too much to hope for at the outset of the competition. Not knowing how the competition would turn out, one would become a reality and that brought with it a sense of excitement and nerves.
The BBC’s Olympic coverage ran a vignette where a sports psychologist described that successful, high-level athletes do not fear nerves or pressure, but instead welcome them. When I started mooting I suffered from serious nerves; over time I have come to get to know them, welcome them and deal with them in the best way I know how. In past editions of this column I have described how the moot went. I’m not going to do that here. Truth be told I don’t remember very much about it. I want to focus on the challenges involved in preparing for and making it to the final.
An under appreciated part of national mooting competitions is travel. It is challenging enough to compete against another university on your own campus with the prospect of fellow students watching you succeed or fail, but when you are scheduled to compete at a location that isn’t your own campus then you have to take into account factors that otherwise would be of minimal or no consideration, such as travelling to the location, planning a journey which allows for maximum preparation time and relaxation time once you have arrived at your venue, and whether you have to travel back straight away or have to make accommodation arrangements.
If you are at home then most of these questions are of minimal consideration because you know your journey to university, you know how long it will take and you know when to set off to get there for the maximum preparation time. You don’t have to worry about travelling back or making accommodation arrangements because, more than likely, you will live in the city or town in which you attend university.
I was very fortunate that our Students’ Union was very supportive and made arrangements for us to travel to London the night before, and stay in a hotel, so that we could relax and not have to worry about travelling to London on the day and having to find an unknown location. This would turn out to be a serious blessing, for reasons I will mention later.
Preparing the moot was difficult enough. The week that the question was released I came down with a pretty nasty ear infection, necessitating two trips to A&E and consulting two Ear, Nose and Throat specialists. What I wanted to do was prepare the moot, to understand what the question was about, and prepare an argument. What I was capable of doing was holding my head, in pain and applying heat to relieve the pain or trying to sleep so that I wasn’t conscious for it. Thankfully the doctors at Stafford A&E were very helpful and my health improved… leaving me a good week or so to prepare the moot.
Thankfully there were no obstacles such as coursework, seminar preparation or weekly readings so I was able to spend more time than I usually would have been able to on analysing the cases and preparing an argument. That part of it seemed to help. At first I struggled with how I could convince the judge that our client should not be liable to pay a massive amount of money arising out of an intentional breach of fiduciary duty; those lay people I explained my case to were unable to help much more than ‘your client should lose because he’s behaved appallingly’ and ‘your client should just pay the money’, but the answer eventually came. The distinction that I thought would win us the case was fine, but perhaps subtle enough that the court could find in our favour without rendering my partner’s speech pointless.
The night before the moot we decided to meet in the lobby of the hotel at half past eleven in the morning and journey to the location we had been told we would be mooting at near Kings Cross Station. We arrived at that venue at twelve o’clock in the afternoon to receive a text message from the organiser of the competition – the venue had been changed and we would have to travel to Islington. It was fortunate that we decided to leave early enough because the next hour to an hour and a half saw us travelling to Islington to the new venue.
When we were finally able to get into the room in which we would moot, it was quite hot. Fortunately for the other mooters, who were female, their attire did not require a fully buttoned shirt, tie and suit jacket so they did not have to deal with the same experience. I seemed not only to have to deal with the nerves of standing up and speaking, but also the sweltering and uncomfortable heat. Thankfully we did not have to wear gowns as well!
When all was said and done, we were announced the winners. I couldn’t believe it. It was the culmination of ten months of hard work, preparation and commitment.
Web Legal has been continually impressed by both the Birmingham City Law School mooting team, Naomi Barnes and Liam Draper, and the whole mooting system at Birmingham City Law School itself. Liam and Naomi throughout all the rounds have been polite, organised, highly efficient and their level of research and dedication has shone through at each stage. I have no hesitation in predicting their future careers in law to be beneficial to both themselves and the community or company they assist.
Birmingham City Law School have a mooting system which they can be proud of and their investment has clearly paid off! The whole student body has been interested in our competition (a level of interest matched by very few other law schools) and have supported Naomi and Liam – again this shows a clear dedication to law from the student body and staff.
Liam represented his academic institution, Birmingham City University, in the Web Legal National Mooting Competition.