Liam Draper shares and explains some of his top tips for a successful mooting performance.
Image courtesy of Liam Draper
Believe it or not, what you wear for your moot is important. It’s hard to believe given that the object of the exercise is to persuade. What does it matter what you wear as long as you can be persuasive? That’s where the importance comes in. You have to be persuasive. If you are mooting externally then you should be aware of what is expected in the competition you have entered. Most competitions require formal dress and place an obligation on the hosting University to provide gowns.
Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.
All advocates should be standing up. When it is your turn, make sure you stand up in your own time when you are ready and receive acknowledgement from the judge for when to start. The time allotted to you will start from when you open your mouth so if there are butterflies in your stomach before you start speaking take your time, take a breath, then begin.
There will come a time when the moot judge asks you a question. This could be during your speech, if you are mooting externally, and it could also be after your speech, if you are mooting internally. As eager as you may be to answer their question and show off your research, keep quiet. Let them talk. When they are ready to hear your answer, they will let you know. If they have follow up questions, let them get it out. Moot judges are usually practitioners, lecturers or experienced mooters – in any event, they have earned their stripes to sit on the bench. It is counter-productive to interrupt them because it will not engender positive feelings. Positive feelings are what you want – you want them to remember you for the right reasons.
American legal TV shows are famous for depicting courtroom activity as far more glamorous, far more entertaining than English courtrooms tend to be. This isn’t to say that British courts don’t have their own brand of glamour or entertainment…
A weak presentation is one that does not change, regardless of its audience. If a student came before a moot court and delivered a presentation on the moot problem and did not allow for any time to be stopped or asked questions, and delivered it the same way each time, then they would surely not succeed. A mooter has to be aware of their audience – the judge – they need to be sensitive to their reactions, both in terms of writing and in terms of whether they look like they are following what you are saying. Break up your performance by asking their permission to move onto separate points. This shouldn’t be done too often as it may come across as too timid. If you have made a point, you feel the judge is with you and you want to move onto a new, separate point, then ask.
Many students get caught in the trap of making easy mistakes. It is likely due to nerves. Lawyers in court when addressing the bench do not ‘feel’ or ‘believe’, for they are not paid to advocate their feelings or their beliefs (though they may find themselves in the lucky position of arguing for their feelings or beliefs); they are paid to make submissions of law and invite the court to adopt their position.
Demarcation of submissions
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a moot or a business presentation – poor presentations have one thing in common. You don’t know where one part starts and another ends. Make sure that you are clear in your presentation that you clearly define what you are going to be talking about and when you will talk about them. This also helps to let you know how much time you have to talk about each. For example if you clearly set out three topics to talk about, you will hardly want to spend the majority of your time talking about the first. Make sure, however, that you have practised and know how long your submissions will run. Separate what you are going to talk about so that it is clear to the judge and to yourself.
Interventions and questions
The true test of a mooter to start with is not in the presentation they give. Many students can present an argument quite well, even if they are nervous. The true test is how they stand up to questioning. Moot judges will attempt to get a student off script and thinking on their feet, answering questions they have about the case. At a very fundamental level, judges want you to display your advocacy, your preparation and your skill of persuasion and that is why they interrupt. It isn’t necessarily to trip you up, make you look small or to give you a savage time – as some students tend to think when it comes to external moots. They are tasked with resolving a particular problem and they want your assistance in knowing which way to deal with it.
The opposition argument
A skill in and of itself is rebutting the opposition. Some students are only concerned with their own material and therefore do not consider addressing their opposing counsel’s submissions. When starting out, there is nothing wrong with that. If you can, address it. If you can’t, don’t worry about it. It does show a level of sophistication that not addressing it fails to show. As you become more experienced in mooting then you will want to rebut your opponents’ arguments more often. It shouldn’t detract from your own submission but, where you can, criticise their position by anticipating it in your submission or rebutting it after your opposition has spoken.
Ending your presentation
Having judged more than a handful of moots, students are very anxious to finish their submissions and do so in a rush. There’s nothing worse you can do when it comes to finishing your moot. Make sure that you end it appropriately, by finishing with a conclusion and by telling the court what you want it to do. You’re being instructed with vast sums of money to go before the Appeals Court and fight for your client; the last thing you want to do is talk eruditely on scholarly points of law and then finish with an anti-climax, not having told the court what it is you want it to do.