Mooting – behind the spotlight

Mooting can be an excellent way of boosting your CV – but you don’t have to moot to enjoy the benefits the activity brings. James Roden talks us through some of the ways he found to use the experience even when he wasn’t mooting.

It is a fact that if you want to make it in the law industry today, particularly if you want to be a barrister, you have to be a good mooter. To some, this will come with practice. To others, it may take more time, and to a few unlucky few, it never really will. I fell into the middle category of the three at university. Despite not being a brilliant mooter, I knew that I had to get involved in mooting in some way to help enhance my CV. With work experience placements and vacation schemes becoming notoriously more difficult to get, I knew that this would go some way in helping me boost my credentials further. But what can a person do to get involved in mooting, despite not being a good mooter? In this article, I illustrate other extracurricular activities that show that you don’t have to be a gifted mooter, there are other mooting activities a student can get involved in and have something to show on your CV for it.

I got involved in mooting from the moment I got to university. This didn’t just mean paying to join the society and having no involvement from thereon in, this meant taking part. Due to other commitments, I was unable to take part in the first competition that the society held. I did however, immediately sign up for the second competition, the Internal Moot (sponsored by LexisNexis), as soon as it was available to do so. I joined forces with a close friend and together we formulated what we believed was a good argument. It is fair to say that I was not confident about this. I stood up, took a deep breath and recited what I could remember of my argument to the judges in about thirty seconds. Unfortunately, I had a panic attack and so promptly sat down. It was no surprise that we lost the moot, but I had received some positive feedback from the judges that I listened to and took on board. Later on in the first year I took part in the Inter-Year moot and I’m glad to say this went better. I reached the semi-final with my fellow competitor, but did not make it to the final rounds of the competition. I again took on board the comments made by the judges, which were mainly to slow down my delivery and try and show confidence, in order to improve my mooting skills for the future.

As part of two modules (Crime and the English Legal System – known as Skills, Processes & Scholarship) my university, Birmingham City University (BCU), had an assessed moot which made up part of the overall grade in both modules. I remembered the advice given to me previously when presenting my argument in the moot, talking a lot slower and more clearly. I also felt that to gain more confidence I would have to make sure that my argument was the best it could be, so I spent a lot more time researching the point I was arguing. I am very pleased to report that I’d come on leaps and bounds since the first time, getting 70% overall. I was so proud of this and felt that without the minor setback I’d had in my first competition, I wouldn’t have worked harder to present a good argument with confidence.

Second year soon came round and the first event that the mooting society held was the “Balloon Debate.” This event gives participants the chance to take on the role of a famous person, fictional or real, and tell a panel of judges why they should be kept in a hot air balloon that is plummeting to the ground. The character that I picked at random was, hilariously, Marilyn Monroe. Initially, my thoughts were that of horror, but as time went on, I embraced the fun side of it and got completely involved. When it came to presenting our arguments, I joked to fellow participants that I wanted to go first, because at least then it would be done. In a cruel twist, when it came to running order, I was actually first – at that point the phrase “be careful what you wish for” had never been so appropriate. I stood up in front of friends, peers and lecturers and sang a song as Marilyn Monroe (Happy Birthday) to the entire audience. This was rewarded by rapturous applause by the whole audience and as a result, I felt confident while reciting the rest of my argument. I didn’t win the debate but again had some wonderful feedback showing that I had improved.

In the second and third year I also got involved in the university’s Internal Moot competition and whilst I took on board all comments I had received previously, I unfortunately did not make it past the first round. I had generally received positive comments with the judges noting that I had improved considerably since first year, but that the standard was so high they felt that I couldn’t be put through to further rounds at this stage. In addition, it was felt that first years should be given more of a chance to improve their skills so that the potential external mooters had more practice. Whilst despondent, I knew that I couldn’t give up and tried to find ways of getting myself more involved with the mooting community.

There are a number of ways that a student can get involved with their mooting society without needing to moot themselves. The committee have a very dedicated team, not all of which moot externally (or even internally). Some of the roles have been designed so that there is no need for them to moot should they not wish to. For example, the treasurer position requires no mooting experience, and nor does the secretary role. However, these are excellent opportunities to get involved with the society and have something to show for it on the CV.

Despite not being a part of the Mooting Society Committee officially, I spent a lot of time with the team, getting to know everyone and getting involved in everything they were doing. As I had been involved in so many moots during my time at university, some of the committee, including the director and the chairman, felt I was able to take on a judging role and so after my elimination in the first rounds, I judged all subsequent rounds, offering advice and support for those who had made it to the second round and beyond. It was a brilliant experience as I was able to boost my confidence and my overall knowledge of mooting, without actually having to moot. As a result of this I also built up a rapport with the committee and some of the mooters who had been selected to moot externally for the university. If you get the opportunity to judge, I would highly recommend it as the analytical skills and confidence that you gain from it is brilliant.

In addition to this I also helped prepare bundles for the external mooters, but more importantly, I listened to the practice sessions that they had, offering advice from a third party. This is not a job that the committee immediately advertises, but on the other hand, they will never turn down a person who is willing to take the time out to assist the mooters and the society generally in this way. The event that sticks in my mind most is when I helped fellow graduate and friend Naomi Barnes prepare for an external moot that she entered herself into. In this round of the moot (hosted and ran by Web Legal Education), they were up against Cambridge, in the second round of the competition and the law was against them. When the judge announced that they had won, the hard work that I had put in helping them, especially Naomi, really made it worth the time and effort spent assisting them. The pair went on to win the competition overall (beating the likes of The University of Birmingham in the first round and the University of Cumbria in the final).

It is difficult to say exactly how I assisted Naomi in preparation for her moots without giving away some of the secrets to the success of the external mooting team. Needless to say, Naomi, her fellow mooters and the director were extremely grateful for the time, help and effort I had put in, and my hard work did not go unnoticed. A position on the Mooting Committee was created for me by the Mooting Director after the win against Cambridge. I was appointed “External Mooting Assistant” which was an honour as by that point; I was simply helping friends prepare for their external moots.

In addition to becoming a committee member, at the time of writing, the current chairman of the mooting society has plans to set up informal debates, for those who feel they are not ready for the formal process of mooting, but want to get involved another way. Whilst details of this have not been finalised, it is excellent to see that there are new ways being thought up where students can get involved with their mooting society, without actually having to moot.

As stated above, my university held a moot that went towards part of the final grade. If this is the same in your university, I recommend you get involved as soon as you can so that you give yourself an advantage when it comes to the graded presentation. However, if you aren’t a gifted mooter, there are, as evidenced by the examples given above, opportunities to get heavily involved within the mooting community without actually having to moot externally for the university now and in the future. That is not to say that the examples mentioned are the only ways that you can get involved. The onus is on you to find ways of getting involved whether that be by mooting, joining the committee, or going out of your way to help in some other way. It’s your education – maximise it to the fullest! Good luck!

James graduated from Birmingham City University with an Upper Second Class Bachelor of Law degree with Honours. He also has a new job at Birmingham City University as a Student Academic Mentor. His undergraduate thesis was on the doctrine of secret trusts and whether they have a place in modern day law.