Judging a moot

  • An introduction to judging
  • The criteria
  • Intervention
  • The judgment

    MootingNet home

  • An introduction to judging

    As a judge you have an important role to play in the moot taking place before you. It is you who decides firstly which team of advocates has won the legal argument and secondly which team of advocates has presented the best arguments. It is the team which has put forward the best arguments which have won the moot and not the team winning the legal argument. It is important to note that the two do not necessarily have e an effect upon each other. It is perfectly acceptable for one team to win the moot and another to win the legal argument.

    It is of utmost importance that you as the judge appreciate what is required before the moot commences. This may involve being acquainted with the details of the problem to be judged, the rules of the moot which the advocates are subject to and possibly the rules for the judges. The availability of the latter will depend on whether the moot organiser feels it necessary to provide you with judging rules.

    A common concern for judges is whether they need to know the law for each particular problem. In practical terms you are not required to know any law and can entirely rely on the advocates to convince you of what the position of the law is. However, in theory it may be advantageous for you to be aware of the important principles of law surrounding the problem. This allows you to be more pro-active and provides the opportunity of a more thorough analysis of the advocates arguments. We would suggest hat a brief outline of the law would be advantageous although more importantly understanding the problem and the grounds for appeal are vital to the qualification of a good judge.

    Return to top

    The criteria

    You may ask yourself: ‘As a judge what am I to look for and more importantly how do I achieve that goal?’ A good organiser should enlighten you with the necessary criteria being used to judge each team of advocates. Such criteria may vary from organiser to organiser.

    In any moot whether it be a practice moot or a competition moot the most important consideration for any team of advocates is the knowledge of which team has won the moot.. It is on this point that that you need to be clear and to avoid any confusion you should specifically state which team of advocates has won the moot and which team the legal argument. Experience has shown that failure to specify winners of the moot causes tension between the advocates and the organiser. It is therefore advisable to adopt a two stage process in specifying who the winners are. First of all specify which team has won the legal argument and secondly specify which team has won the moot.

    In considering which team of advocates has won the moot there are a number of criteria which you need to consider. We will aim to outline the most important characteristics you need to look for in order to judge the advocates performance. Although, the weight attached to each of the criteria will vary from organiser to organiser. Some organisers prefer to implement a marking scheme on which the advocates are given a mark out of ten for each of the criteria. The team with the highest marks win the moot. Other organisers prefer to simply allow you to decide who in your opinion was the best team and you are able to attach the weight to each criteria as you think fit.

    Some generally accepted criteria are as follows:

    • Clarity Of Speech - There is nothing more annoying than an advocate who mumbles to themselves and speaks at a rate which even in slow motion is too fast to understand. It is therefore, important for the advocate to pace themselves well so that each word is clearly heard. You need to be able to understand what the advocate is arguing at ease. If you have to stop the advocate to ask then to slow down then you may do so, but make a note of it. Clarity of speech is an important criterion and should therefore be given considerable weight.

    • Rationality Of Argument - Every argument must be structured and logical for it to be considered in a justifiable way. Each argument the advocate advances must be fully backed with acceptable authority. Without such justification their argument can be regarded as invalid. It is therefore imperative for you to be satisfied with the advocate’s line of argument.

      If as a judge you are aware of significant authorities in an area which the advocate has failed to cite, or if the advocate cites dissenting or overruled judgments, then this will count heavily against the mooter. If you sense any error or irrationality from other authorities cited then you should raise the issue with the advocate.

      A good advocate is one who is fluently able to convince you of a line of argument, and one who does not have to continuously fluster between written notes.

    • Posture - A big element in being convinced with a line of argument is the posture the advocate poses. An advocate who hide their hands in pockets or behind tables clearly have something to hide form you, probably lack of confidence. An advocate who sways from side to side and has the tendency to balance on one foot is clearly not on solid ground and should not be where they are.

      On the other hand the advocate who makes effective use of their hands and who stand up straight and look at you whilst delivering their arguments, shows that they are comfortable with the environment, are aware of you presence and more importantly they are aware of what they are arguing. This no doubt deserves merit for demonstrating such confidence and professionalism.

    • Court Etiquette - 'How's m'lord mate, umm, I'm ye olde, er, John Smith and this is my buddy, umm, John Snow'. This is clearly not the way you want to be addressed. Court etiquette is a vital consideration for you as the judge because at one level it signifies the professionalism of the advocate and at another level it indicates the advocates manner towards the institution of the law. As a judge you demand courtesy and respect and it is this you should receive without requesting for it.

      The outstanding advocate is one who is able to fluently speak in a way which encapsulates the language of the court room, in their normal mode of speaking. Striking the correct balance between being disrespectful and going over the top only comes with experience of speaking in a legalistic way. However, experience has shown that some advocates, both novices and professionals tend to spend a considerable amount of their speech time saying 'My Lord with your permission...', 'My Lord if you shall permit me...', 'My Lord shall I proceed...'. Lines beginning with 'My Lord...' are necessary but there is a limit to the reasonable extent of their use.

      Advocates who use the court room language to an extent where it looks dramatised and unrealistic can be said to be overdoing it. Whereas those which bring it into the rhythm of their normal mode of speaking and make it a part of their argument can be said to be achieving the right balance. This clearly deserves merit for good court etiquette.

    • Time Keeping - Good time keeping in essence shows well thought out arguments and thus good presentation. Poor time keepers are those which fluster among pages of written notes and are unaware of your presence. It is the job of the organiser or court clerk to keep the advocate informed of their time. If even after such assistance the advocate is unable to keep to their time then their is clear evidence showing lack of presentation and lack of awareness of people present in the court room.

    Return to top


    It is of great importance that a moot judge should be an active audience. Ability to respond to questions is of key importance in a court setting, and the mooter should be able to respond fully to any points of which the moot judge requires assistance.

    Mooters tend to rely too heavily on carefully prepared scripts, and intervention allows the judge to test whether the mooter can sustain their force of argument without looking down at the page.

    However, some mooters can become extremely nervous when questions, and if the judge badgers an advocate it can impair the remainder of the mooter's performance. Quizzing the lead appellant mooter about the facts they are summarising is also a little unfair, since the facts are not open to dispute.

    An accepted medium is for a couple of points to be raised (and if necessary followed up) per speech.

    Return to top

    The judgment

    Although not strictly vital, it is useful for a moot judge to give an opinion on who has won on the law in the case, before moving on to decide who has won the moot.

    Style varies between judges from a rapid decision, to a considered look at the central points of each mooter's legal argument. The length of the judgment may be dependent on time constraints, or on the audience.

    Each mooter's peformance, judged chiefly by the criteria above, should be thoroughly appraised at some point, although some judges prefer to do this privately, rather than in front of the mooter's colleagues.

    Finally, the judge must declare the winner of the moot, and offer his praise to the losers for their efforts.

    Return to top

    MootingNet homepage