By Tanishka Sahajwalla
Mooting could be a daunting exercise for many, but once mastered, it can be an
addiction. It is one of the best ways to enhance your legal skills. Many say that
mooting is only for those who want to become a barrister, but this is a
MISCONCEPTION! Mooting is a skill that helps you enhance your knowledge of the law while polishing your presentation and speaking skills. It is essential for anyone who wants to improve as a lawyer. It is a skill, like many other skills that cannot be taught overnight. Perseverance is the key.
If you are a beginner, here are some of my top tips to hack your next moot.
Know your case inside out
I cannot emphasise how important this is. Knowing the facts on your tips helps you quickly understand the questions asked by the judge and what he/she expects from you. This does not mean just knowing your fact sheet but means knowing the facts and judgements of every case you are ever going to mention in that bundle of yours. Yes, this will sound crazy, but it is essential if you want to stand out and make your mark in the competition. You can do this by remembering each case as a short story.
Quick Tip: If you just can’t remember all of them, try making small sticky notes to
give you a hint about the case and stick them on the cover of your bundle.
Do not make a script
When it is your first-time mooting, you would be tempted to write down every court etiquette possible and lay down your submissions as you want to present them while speaking. This, in the long term, is not a good practice. You should rely on your skeleton argument. Why? Because, if you have a sheet in front of you which has everything you need to speak, you will be tempted to look at it again and again. This will not only make you sound like you are reading but also downgrade your impression on the judge. Do not forget that a Moot is a debate on why you think your client is right. It is a discussion, not a speech.
Quick Tip: Make short bullet points to help remind you of the point of discussion and the directions to your bundle.
Leave time for questions
As much as you want to speak and emphasise on all the points you have researched for; the judges want to ask you questions. A lot of questions. There are moments they will grill you at your best, and you would just want to scream, but remember you cannot. Their mere aim is to see whether you are flexible and if you can alter your submissions when in need. It is always a good idea to limit your submissions to 70% of the time frame you have. So, if you have 10 minutes, limit your content to 7 minutes. If you get lucky and are not asked questions, there is no harm in finishing your submissions before time. Remember, Judges like things short and precise.
Quick Tip: If you are unsure of how you can keep time, try practising in front of the mirror with your timer/stopwatch on.
Your bundle is another way to leave an impression on the judge. Make it as easy to read as you can. Show your passion for stationery. Divide the binder into sections, use flags, and underline the important sentences. Remember, judges like things short and precise. They will like you if you make it easy for them to identify which page, which para, which line and which word you want them to look at.
Quick Tip: Avoid using highlighters. They, many a time, stain the paper and makes your bundle look messy. Instead, use colour pens or pencil.
Along with dressing formal and being confident, it is important to be thorough with the court etiquette's. Judges do not like you to be informed during any part of your submissions. From ‘May it please the court’ to the ‘it is thus submitted …’ every tiny etiquette is essential. I am therefore providing a list of some important etiquette's below.
Begin with – “May it please the court.”
Introduce yourself – “I am Miss/Mr. XYZ, senior/junior appellant/respondent in this case.”
Introduce your partner (only when senior appellant) – “along with the junior appellant Ms./Mr. PQR”
Introduce your opponent (only when senior appellant) – “on the other side; we have my learned friend Ms./Mr. ABC, as the senior respondent and miss/Mr. LMN as junior respondent.”
P.s. - Ask the counsel how they would like to be addressed beforehand. The usual format is ‘Ms./Mr. (surname)’.
Always tell the court where you are headed, you can do this by merely stating the submissions beforehand – “the counsel submits that the decision of the high court should be upheld. For this I have 2 submissions, they are 1 & 2.”
Always watch the pen of the judge. Once you have directed them to a page of the bundle, ask them whether they are with you – “Does my lord have sight?”
Conclude your submissions – “If I am of no further assistance, I would thus like to move to my next submission/ conclude my submissions.”
Quick Tip: From my personal experience, I would suggest to try and know who your judge is at least 10 minutes before your time slot. Use this time to practice how you are going to address the judge, i.e. do you want to use ‘My lord’ or ‘my lady’ or ‘my lordships/ladyships.’ This is an important practice. Judges hate it when they are addressed wrong.
Your participation in any moot will not be useful if you do not ask for feedback.
Many judges provide feedback as soon as you finish your set, but some do not. Then how do you get it? If they do not offer you feedback in the courtroom, they expect you to stick around. They want you to walk towards them during the tea breaks and discuss your performance through a small chat. Utilise this opportunity to get their attention and get connected with them on LinkedIn while learning from them.
Quick Tip: Try making a word document of all the feedback you have got in different moots you have done. This will have you keep track of your improvement, and you will avoid repeating mistakes.
Covid and Moots
The online transition of everything has made it difficult for face to face moots to
happen. However, there are many initiatives by different chambers and graduates to organise a virtual moot competition. They are trying their level best to replicate the actual moots and not let the online transition hinder the mooting experience. You can find the available opportunities by searching keywords like ‘virtual moots’, ‘mooting competition’ on LinkedIn and get involved in these great initiatives.
Quick Tip: While on these moots, try to dress-up and think that you are in an actual moot. This will help you enhance your experience.
This brings you to the end of my tips. I hope they were useful. All the best for your next moot!