It’s no surprise that mooting is one of the most popular extra-curricular activities at law school. Moots are a great way to improve your communication skills and develop your advocacy skills long before you ever set foot in a real-life courtroom.
If you’re new to mooting, here are some common mistakes to avoid…
1. Unfamiliarity with the Facts
Sometimes knowing the facts is more important than knowing the law. A simple factual error or misinterpretation of the question can render your line of argument incorrect.
Always be prepared, and know the facts like the back of your hand. You should be able to pinpoint what paragraph you are referring to in your presentation without looking to the fact sheet.
2. Inappropriate Reactions
It’s important to be professional in a moot and to respect the judge and the other team. Whatever happens, do not laugh, no matter how humorous your opponent’s blunder may be. Laughing in a moot will lose you points and respect. A good way to avoid laughing is look down and read through your notes.
Perhaps the one thing worse than laughing in a moot is swearing. A moot judge’s question crippled my opponent’s submission, and the mooter quietly swore under his breath a certain four-letter word. He probably panicked as he had no response, but unfortunately the slip-up meant his team lost points.
The best possible way to avoid this scenario is to do some practice moots, which will help you to prepare for most of the questions you’ll likely be asked in the actual moot. This will help you to have pre-prepared yet natural sounding answers that will make you seem smart and quick on your feet.
3. Scripting It
A script can seem like a comforting thing to have during a moot, but in reality they are too rigid for the competition. I am not a fan of word-for-word scripts as they can detract from eye contact with the judge, and a moot is supposed to be a conversation with the judge.
In one moot, my opponent had opted for a word-for-word script. During her submission she paused and then said, “whoops, I have lost my spot”. As you can imagine, the judge was not amused. In another round, I saw a competitor’s script fall off the lectern several times, which rattled her and caused her submissions to become disjointed.
Avoid the script and do some practice moots to become comfortable with the material you’ll have with you when presenting your submission.
French CJ once told a group of mooters that, “Mooting is a landscape. There will be hills, valleys and traps along the way, but you have to know your way from one side to other.”
4. Not Dressing the Part
When it comes to mooting, appearances matter. I once saw a student wear a white suit, a pink shirt and a white tie to a moot. As you could imagine, this caused his team to be taken less seriously, even though he was a good mooter.
The moot judge’s first impression of you should be that “this person looks like a lawyer.” A classic black suit with white shirt is always safe bet. You may be dying to wear that outrageously colourful tie, but should probably until you have a Denny Crane reputation.
If the other team makes a mistake, it’s imperative that you don’t intentionally or unintentionally embarrass your opponents as it could backfire and make you and your team appear arrogant and emotionally unintelligent. Also, you should always congratulate the other team at the conclusion of the competition and perhaps afterwards have a chuckle over the moot.
Mooting can be a steep learning curve and every mooter makes mistakes from time to time, but it’s far better to make mistakes in a moot than it is to make them in a real court case!
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