I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of a fearless badass. I’ve bungee jumped off rickety bridges in Nepal where they use PLASTIC BUCKETS OF WATER as counterweight so you don’t, you know, fall and die.
I’ve also insisted on going to areas of South America that the locals describe with animated hand gestures that loosely resemble a handgun, and ‘bang bang’ noises.
As good as I am at completely disregarding the very real risk of life threatening impending doom, it has been no match for the daunting moments waiting outside a moot room, waiting for a judge to rock up. My palms get sweaty and my mind races: ‘Are my hands supposed to feel this numb?
What’s he going to ask me? Why is this tie so itchy? Am I the respondent or appellant again? How the hell do I pronounce this first case citation?’
If you are ever in a position where you are staring nervously into your pile of now sweat-smudged moot notes, waiting for your first ever moot to start, I would like to say a fist bump for your ballsiness in signing up for mooting. It isn’t easy taking the first step!
If you’re new to mooting and aren’t quite sure what to do, here are some things I have learned from participating in my first few moots…
Read the Cases
In their entirety. Yes, it sucks and takes a stupidly long time, but when a Judge pulls you up on why the appellant’s authority should be distinguished from the case at bar, you want to be able to recite the intricate details of the facts and note how they are dissimilar, or if they asked you why you used a particularly eloquent quote that was said in obiter and not the ratio, you want to be able to point to how the High Court got cranky about the intermediate appellate courts disregarding ‘seriously considered dicta’ of the HCA in Farah Constructions.
Read the cases.
Don’t read off your notes
Know the material. Know the argument that you want to make and how you would like to make it. The thing with mooting is that the Judge can interject and ask you questions whenever they please, and should their questions direct you away from the lovely, linear and logical argument you had on paper, you need to be able to adapt and still know the main points you want to make.
Plus, it’s a lot less compelling looking down at your notes while you are telling the Judge why the appellant’s case is rubbish, as opposed to speaking naturally and looking the Judge directly in the eyes while you make your point.
Practice before your moot
Mooting is like spoken chess. While there is a fair bit of room to move and a number of variables that aren’t completely predictable, you get a general idea as to the line your opponent or the judge may take. I mean, you can pretty much assume your opponent is going to argue the opposite of everything you say, and you can pretty much assume the judge is going to poke at all the weak areas of your argument. Therefore, it’s fairly easy to make some general preparations to help you along, especially when you have your opponent’s submissions!
Also, take turns playing judge with your partner when practicing: have one person practice their submissions while the other interjects with questions whenever they can think of any. It goes a long way in preparing for the judges’ questions!
List the things you want to talk about
And cross them off as you do.
I got told this by the judge after I completely messed up my first moot and got all confused by the judge’s line of questioning.
Knowing the points that you want to make and crossing them off as you go along gives you the flexibility to address judges questions, while also helping you to keep track of the general direction you want to go in.
Relax and have fun
Take it seriously enough so that you feel like you gave it a genuinely good crack and don’t let your team mate down, but don’t be too upset if you don’t get the results you want. At the end of the day, mooting is seriously fun. So enjoy it.
Sometimes things won’t happen the way you want it to; you might mess up something that you have practiced a thousand times and just know that you could have nailed it, you might get a judge that rocks up absolutely clueless and barely asks you a question. These things happen – getting good results are always nice but the skills you learn from mooting are the most valuable (now I read cases about 3x faster, and my hands flail about 300% less when I’m publicly speaking!)
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