Ever heard of a lawyer with only researching and drafting capabilities? If you have, god bless that lawyer! No lawyer is successful without having some serious advocacy skills. You could do your research, write well, but is it even worth it if you can’t present it in court? Absolutely not! Law Schools make it a point to introduce courtrooms to their students well before they nervously enter the court for their first trial after earning their degree. It may not be the easiest of experiences, but it takes any student a long way.
Mooting is one such experience that is necessary to witness before attending to real-time cases as an attorney. Moot courts are mock trials of real-life courtrooms, where the bench, the jury, the counsels of the applicant and respondent are present and you have to present yourself in the best light to prove your skill at what you would do after graduating – defending. No matter how much you detest it, you have to go through it with all your might. Mooting is the training for the real battle in the lawyer life.
What makes Moot Courts so great?
To err is human, to forgive, divine.
Remember that you could call yourself a human in a moot and the judge, divine. We all learn from mistakes and that’s what helps us enhance our potential. If things go smooth from the beginning, you will find little or no scope for improvement. Moots will make you prepared for the rough road and you have to go through it to hone your skill as an advocate. Making mistakes is not a big deal as long as you’re prepared to learn from them and not repeat them, just to become better each time.
Most law students feel that they were at least 70% better in their last moot as a law-school student than their first take at it.
Let us look at how you can become better at moots and glide through them with ease. Here are some tried and tested tips from fellow lawyers that’ll come handy when you’re dealing with the moot court monster in your life:
The Judge is ALWAYS right!
You must have been told that the boss is always right. Well, if you’re a law student you should also know that the Judge is always right and you need to be a patient listener. Do not lose your cool, no matter how much your insides are burning to speak up and say something that’s not in favour of the Judge. This is the first and foremost tip not just for your moot life, but also for the time when you become a practicing attorney.
Know how to address the JURY
Remember how to address different people in a moot courtroom. You will always address the Judge as “This Hon’ble Bench”. Alternatively, you have the option of addressing them as “Your Lordship” if the judge is a male, and “Your Ladyship”, if the judge is a female. When nervous, a lot of people may tend to mix the two and make a fool of themselves. Avoid doing that, since your first impression is always long-lasting. Practice well, and if possible, find out in advance as to who is heading the bench.
Know how to address yourself and the opponent
It is easy to slip into the temptation of using words from your usual English in the court. However, here is where you need to be extra careful. Avoid using words like “I, me, you, myself, yourself”. In court, there is no such thing as I or You. Make it a habit to call yourself
“Council for Plaintiff” or “Council for Defendant”. You must also know and learn to address the other party as “my learned friend” or “my learned opponent” (even if you think they’re not as learned as you are). In the court, you have to know how to show respect towards the bench by being respectful towards your opponent. Alternatively, one can also address the opposing party as “Council for Plaintiff” or “Council for Defendant”.
Disagree with poise
During the course of the mock trial, if at some point it you realise that the judge is actually right and you haven’t made a fair enough point, you DON’T HAVE TO MAKE A FOOL OF YOURSELF. At various times, you may find yourself in a position where you think the judge is making a valid point but your point was actually not right, do not admit it! If you have realised it, keep it to yourself and convey with grace as to how you still stand with your point. Otherwise, you may come off as fickle-minded and unsure. You have to say “that may be a valid point”( in your mind you already know it is valid, but don’t agree completely). There is another way of expressing this, which could be “With all due respect, we disagree”. In moots, you need to be diplomatic but firm.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
You may have read this numerous times on your social media feed since you were probably a teenager, but here is where you REALLY need to apply it. Agree or not, Moot Court judges can really make you sweat and want to start being wildly rude in court. Please do not give in to such a temptation as that’s what makes or breaks you. Unless it is an actual practicing or retired judge, he/she might make things hard for you over there.
Confidence is the key
Confidence can win those battles for you, which you probably thought you wouldn’t even qualify for. This is applicable everywhere. You need to be sure about what you’re saying, why you’re saying it and how you put it across. If you’re found to be in jitters while arguing, no matter how strong a point you make, you will fail. There’s an added danger to it from the jury. If they find out you’re not confident, are not clear with it yourself, they will grill you all the more. From there on, it’ll become a vicious cycle and you will not be able to present everything the way you thought you would. Do NOT let their questions confuse you.
Asking again is not a sin
This is extremely important and should always be in your mind. Ask again but do not answer wrong! If you haven’t heard or understood the question, you can always ask again. That is not where you lose points. However, if you act over-smart and go on answering a question that wasn’t even asked in the first place, you are buying embarrassment for yourself. This is how you can ask the judge to repeat the question – “I would be obliged if the court could re-state/clarify the question” or “I am afraid I do not understand that question”. This will get you a second chance at hearing/understanding the question and will also buy you more time to decipher it.
Chin up, own up
If you find out you have made a mistake in court, you shouldn’t be afraid to admit it. Taking a false statement too far is criminal and you don’t want criminal charges on yourself. Like mentioned above, to err is human, you must always make it a point to admit your mistake and apologize. This way, you clear the path not just for yourself, but also are steer into the right direction from there on. This also avoids confusion to the jury and the opposite council.
Dress very, VERY well
This does not mean you go overboard with dressing up – WARNING! Clean clothes with neat ironing are great. Do not wear flashy colors, oversized and distracting accessories or anything unnecessary. You must be dressed in decent court formals, polished shoes and well-contrasted colors. Do not mis-match your blazer and pants, they will not look good in court. You could beg, borrow or steal, but not commit to dress badly for moot. Muted tones are safe to wear on moot days. Hair, nails and make-up(if any) must be trimmed and neat respectively. The focus should be on your argument, not on your disturbing appearance.
10. Always be (read: look) interested in the opposing argument
Consider this a rule of thumb and always look interested in what the opposing council has to say. It may require you to bring your poker face on, but you HAVE TO seem interested in them. If you do not listen, or the least, appear to listen, the jury might think you to be over-confident and under-interested. Strike the right balance and give the opposing council the respect that they deserve. After all, they have worked hard for the moot too !
11. The clock’s ticking
There is a fixed time allotted to each participant for defending their argument. This time frame is limited to only 5 minutes. You have to keep your argument crisp and well-summarized in order to make the most of those 5 minutes. A bell will ring at the end of 4 minutes to notify you that you have just one minute left. Remember that only these 5 minutes decide your fate at the moot. The time that the judges or other students take for intervening isn’t counted.
Thoroughly read the problem assigned and research well. You must be able to clearly understand the facts and scan for applicable sections, definitions and other relevant information. A well-researched argument is better than blabber. Other may play with the law and try to impress the jury; however, if you’re amalgamating facts with the applicable laws and case studies, you stand a better chance at doing your level best.
Preparation for submission
Writing neatly may not have come to you in school, but you have to make sure you present the submission in a clearly written presentation. The citations must be included. It will be even better to submit your submission with a carefully indexed list. This will reflect your organization skills and your general ability to keep things sorted. Make it a point to convey your discussion in an understandable and easy flow of information. The wrong kind of flow distracts the jury from the main point, hence, weakening your argument.
Presenting the submission
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. No matter how well you have written your submission, without rehearsing, you will not be able to do justice to it. Keep your notes handy at all times and avoid including too many citations as it may confuse you thoroughly. It is important to keep your argument submitted in a conversational style, as that helps you remember your argument and its evidences in its natural and organic form.
Keep your brief brief
Always start with reading the problem with concentration. Do not skip the reading part, as that forms your foundation. After you have clearly understood, you can focus on the citations and individual cases. It will always be helpful to understand the applicability of the relevant law from the perspective of different jurisdictions, as it will aid in knowing what best applies to the situation in question. Analyzing and summarizing the brief with the relevant applicability of the law and cited cases can impress the jury and also make it easier for you while you present it.
We hope these tips will help you prepare well for your next moot courts!
May the courts be with you! 🙂