Tips from a moderately successful mooter

Mooting season is upon us. Whether you are planning to take part for the first time, or consider yourself a seasoned mooter, these tips are designed to get you thinking and help you to enjoy the experience.

They are based on my own experiences and observations and are therefore entirely subjective. I may have made some (or all) of the errors described below.

DO: Know your cases

Many students view the most important part of mooting as making a speech to the judge. In my opinion this is wrong. The point of mooting is to persuade the judge with your arguments. Time spent learning a speech is much better spent reading and really understanding the cases in your bundle. You will find it much easier to respond to interventions with this approach.

DO: Take care with your bundle

Make it super-easy for the judge to navigate:

Student: “I refer your lordship to the lime green tab in my bundle”                            

Judge: “Do you mean the green tab, or the yellow one?”

Coloured tabs might look pretty, but numbers or letters are a far safer bet.

Also, if you have spent hours carefully highlighting and making notes in your own copy of the bundle, make sure you don’t give it to the judge or to your opponents. I would recommend writing your name in large letters on the front cover of your copy.

DO: Treat secondary references with caution

There is a time and a place for Law Commission reports and journal articles: when you are writing an essay. Use case law whenever you can. There will be very few occasions when you cannot find a case to support your argument better than a secondary source could.

DO: Argue the law, not the facts

Moot problems are usually set in the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. Getting bogged down in an argument about the facts of the moot problem is a waste of time and suggests that you don’t understand the purpose of the higher courts.

DO: Research the judges

If you have the opportunity, take some time to find out who will be judging you. Not only is this handy from a networking point of view, it can also avoid embarrassment if you know in advance that your judge is an expert in the field, or has acted in one of the cases that you are going to use. 

DON’T: Argue with the judge

Sounds obvious, but the judge is always right. Even when they are wrong. In fact, especially when they are wrong. Linked to this is my next pointer…

DON’T: Crack jokes

That joke you and your team mate thought you’d slip into your submissions: it’s not as funny as you thought it was. Leave it out. But always smile politely at the judge’s jokes.

DON’T: Be mean to your opponents

After all the stress of preparing your own submissions, it can be a massive relief to see that your opponents’ arguments actually look a bit weak. But this may be because you misunderstand them. Even if they really are hopeless, your arguments will have weaknesses too. Don’t point out their mistakes unless it is essential for your argument. The point of mooting is to be persuasive with your own arguments, not aggressive about your opponents’.

DON’T: Get grumpy

You might have lost, and it might have been terribly unfair, but keep smiling. You can gain a lot from a moot even if you don’t win. And there is always next time. There’s nothing sweeter than going back next time – and winning.

Amy Woolfson recently graduated from the Open University. She tweets at @AmyWoolfson.