How to Moot II - the day of the moot

  • Don't panic
  • What to wear
  • Cards or sheets
  • Giving the speech
  • Judicial questions
  • Responding and the right to reply

  • How to moot I - speech writing

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  • Don't panic!

    Okay. It's the day of the moot. Your stomach is full of butterflies. But don't panic!

    You should have prepared and rehearsed your speech, and discussed what each of you will say with your mooting partner, to prevent any overlap of arguments. If there is time, it is a good idea to practise the speeches in front of each other.

    If you have never been to the room where the moot is being held, it is helpful to pay it a visit in advance, to familiarise yourself with the layout. Familiar territory is less intimidating.

    What to wear

    You may have been given guidance on what to wear by your mooting officer, or in your mooting rules. Some friendly moots are more relaxed as regards dress code, others have stricter standards.

    It generally adds to the atmosphere of the moot if the advocates are smartly dressed in business-like attire. Some universities will also provide black gowns for mooters - most lecturers and professors will own one, which they may be willing to loan for a moot. These are often hard to fasten, and tend to get in the way, but do create a court like feeling for the proceedings.

    The wigs which barristers wear are surprisingly expensive, so wigs are only usually worn in moots if the participants need to cover their bald patches!

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    Cards or sheets?

    One of the great dilemmas for the novice mooter is how to make notes for the speech. Many first time mooters will write their speech out in full on A4 sheets of paper. This is not recommended, for a number of reasons. If the whole speech is written out, it is too tempting to simply read it to the judge, with your head buried in the paper, often speaking far too fast. It is also hard to locate specific information on the sheets if the judge asks a question in the middle of the speech. Interruptions from the judge can result in mooters loosing their place on the page, causing an uncomfortable silence whilst the mooter tries to find it again.

    Our recommended method is to learn your speech and use bullet points on a small number of cue cards (small, postcard sized cards which you can buy at most newsagents). This may, however, prove quite difficult for the novice.

    It is advisable to try and summarise your speech as much as you can when you make a note of it, and always to use cards rather than paper. You can put fact summaries for cases on individual cards, and each point of argument on a separate card. This means that you will avoid paper shuffling (card shuffling, as anyone who has played poker will tell you, is much easier).

    Some modern mooters use 'mind maps' which consist of circular blobs all on one sheet of paper, each with one point of argument written in them. It's all a bit 'new age', but if these work well for you, then use them, but make sure the writing is large enough so that you can use the sheet without reading from it all the time.

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    Giving the speech

    Being a mooter is a bit like being an actor, in that to be really successful, you must throw yourself into the role of advocate. Certain speech and behaviour is not acceptable in a courtroom, and equally should be avoided when mooting.

    Remember the formalities of court etiquette discussed here, and when giving your speech you should particularly take care to avoid the following:

    • colloquial speech - such as 'yeah', 'okay', 'cheers', 'mate'
    • sitting whilst the judge talks to you - always stand up when either the judge talks to you, or when you talk to the judge
    • talking over the judge - never argue or talk over the judge. Wait until the judge has finished before putting forward your own points
    Mooters should also note how to address others in the courtroom, which is dealt with here.

    As for any public speaking, speak slower than you think you need to, louder than you think is required, and clearly. Always keep up eye contact with the judge, and watch for signals from him or her. Does the judge understand? Does the judge need you to pause? If unsure, ask: 'My Lord, may I continue?'

    However, remember you are not Perry Mason. In the UK, barristers are more humble. British lawyers should not walk around the court while they talk, cannot argue with the judge or their learned friends opposite, and never hire private detectives to find the contract killer and get the last minute evidence to save the day!

    Don't forget to keep an eye on the clock. Depending on the rules of your moot time may be strictly limited, or going over the time may result in the judge being asked to take the excess into account when making his decision. Either way, it pays to keep to time. The following may be excluded from the timing of the speech in some variations on the mooting rules:

    • quotations from cases
    • answers to judicial questions
    • summarising the facts of the case (in the lead appellant's speech)
    It is always sensible (but not always realistic!) to rehearse and time your speech in full before the moot.

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    Judicial Questions

    You should always try to answer questions from the judge as and when they are asked. Do not tell the judge that you will get to it later - this will usually annoy the judge. Depending on the mooting rules that apply, answering questions may not be included in the speech timing, giving you plenty of chance to give the judge a full answer without worrying about the clock.

    If the judge has defeated your argument, then admit it. You could say something like: 'Yes. I am grateful to your Lordship.' However, if you feel the judge has misunderstood the point, then it is often worth persisting, by referring the judge again to the relevant authorities and restating your point. Some judges like to test whether the mooters can stick to their guns under pressure.

    If you cannot answer a question, say so. A response such as: 'My Lord, I am unable to assist on that point, since I have not read the relevant authority' will often be sufficient, but be prepared for a judicial rebuke!

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    Responding and the appellants' right to reply

    One thing that is often forgotten about the respondents is that it is their job to respond to the arguments of the appellants. This means that the respondents' arguments cannot be fully pre-prepared. The respondents should listen carefully to the points which the appellants are making, and then try to respond to each in turn.

    The respondents should spend the appellants' speeches hastily scribbling down the points they will make in response. Much can be pre-prepared by anticipating the arguments of the appellants, but a good mooter will still listen to the appellants for anything new.

    Again, in the appellants' right to reply, the appellants should not repeat their earlier arguments, but should restrict themselves to dealing with the points raised by the respondents.

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    How to moot I - where to start and speech writing

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