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5 Tips for Reluctant First-time Mooters

Source // reddit

For the charismatic and quick-witted among us, mooting is a chance to let your inner Harvey Spector shine. For the rest of us, mooting is a necessary evil. Although I am part of the second category, I will attempt to impart some hard-earned knowledge in the form of 5 simple tips:

1. Eye contact

It’s natural to want to hide behind your script. A judge in a first-year moot won’t expect you to have memorised the entire thing, but they may deduct marks if you are reading off the page every time they look at you – mooting is a dialogue between you and the judge. The best way to avoid this is just to practice reading it aloud until you can’t stand the sound of it anymore. Refer to your page in intervals to make sure you’re staying on track, but don’t rely on it entirely.

2. Have confidence in what you are saying

One of the comments I’ve received was: “your responses to questions were good, but you said them as though they weren’t good.” While obviously it is better to be as clear on the law as possible, when presenting an argument that’s a little risky, say it with confidence. It’s part of the craft of law to make even the weakest argument sound persuasive in court. Performance is a large part of this. Even if your client is clearly screwed, speaking with an air of uncertainty is only going to make listeners more sceptical of your argument. Essentially, fake it till you make it.

3. Pacing

Good pacing makes for a happy judge. Speaking too fast is one of the most common mistakes new mooters make. It’s better for a speech to be slightly under the time limit than on time but totally rushed. Judges are people too. To engage with your arguments, they need time to actually listen to and process the points you are making. Pausing after a particularly strong point will flag its importance to a judge.

4. Practice with friends

Before you moot you should have a rough idea of what questions the judge may ask you. Read your speech to a friend and get them to pick out any contentious points of law or logical flaws you may have missed. Even better, ask them to think from the perspective of the opposition. This way you can prepare solid responses, and avoid potential mind-blanks on the day.

5. Watch out for casual language

Questions can throw you off even the most well-prepared speech. They can make you go from speaking eloquently to laughing nervously in a matter of seconds. Make sure to address the judge as ‘Your Honour’ and maintain a formal tone.

For example: “yes, Your Honour,” rather than “okay, sweet.” Or: “I respectfully disagree” rather than “nah I don’t think so.” (believe me, it happens). This can feel super weird since most ‘judges’ are just older students in casual clothing. Also, your opponents are your “learned friends,” not “they” or “the opposition”.

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