To moot or not to moot? – Imogen Proud

Lecturns at the ready!

Lecturns at the ready!

To moot or not to moot? Apparently this is not a question we on the GDL should even be pausing to think twice about, according to Ben Wood, barrister at 4 New Square and organiser of tonight’s mooting workshop. He grabbed our attention last week with the frankly thinly-veiled threat that he personally wouldn’t consider a pupillage application if a CV made no mention of mooting. Gulp. You’ve got our attention, Ben. A mooting workshop in a week’s time? Where do we sign?!

But I shouldn’t paint the mooting introductory talk in a negative light. Clearly Ben’s impassioned speech about all the benefits mooting will bring to your lawyer-brain as well as your career prospects did not fall on deaf ears – at least not judging by the amount of us GDL-folk who were spotted dutifully wearing our suits throughout the day’s lectures, in keen preparedness for the evening’s mooting fun-tivities.

I don’t think the phrase “baptism of fire” would be too dramatic here. With an array of problems to contend with before we even said a word to the judges, including emailed instructions vanishing in the ether, skeleton arguments that refused to print, and crossed wires as to which side people were on – not to mention zero mooting experience – it’s fair to say that as a group, we were boldly going where none of us had gone before.

The problem was described as an “elementary” issue in the law of contract; it centred on whether Best Store’s advertisement for a sale constituted an offer or merely an invitation to treat. Elementary perhaps, but still sufficient to bring out a few pangs of anxiety from those of us yet to have the pleasure of our first contract law tutorial. I wonder if we could try to implement a revolutionary bonus point system in mooting for “subject knowledge gleaned against the odds”?

So it was that armed only with a twin-pack of David Herling’s lecture notes, a list of mooting tips hastily scribbled down from lawbore’s learnmore site and a nervous half-smile, we turned up to find out what the evening would have in store.

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It turned out Ben must have been using his powers of persuasion once again back at 4 New Square as he managed to bring well over twenty members of chambers with him to judge a group each. 4 New Square – we salute you! Turns out, my group was to be judged by a barrister of 35 year’s call. Who happens to be a QC. Who also happens to be a recorder in the Crown Court. It’s fine. It’s absolutely fine. What could there possibly be to be nervous about? *gulps repeatedly* This does mean I’m going to count this as my first ever go at mooting being in front of an actual judge. Oh yes, I’m counting this. He may even get promoted further in subsequent drunken re-tellings of this story – who knows?!

So it turns out mooting is pretty nerve-wracking. Well, certainly the first time anyway. Perhaps it will all get better in moots to come. But for today it was just us, the moot judge, a room full of expectant ears and a big fat silence to fill. Someone in Group H put it best when, upon seeing the wine on offer afterwards, held a glass aloft and declared “Thank god for this!”.

The tips I was given, for what they may be worth to you, were to outline the facts “as if you were telling your mate down the pub…just without the expletives” and to number each of my points with integers (“judges don’t like subsections”). I think a target I might need to set for myself is to refer to the judge correctly. Has anyone read the passage in “1066 and all that” where the authors tie themselves in knots with the names of the pretenders Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck? They call them every combination under the sun, from Lambert Warbeck to Perbert Warnel. That was a bit like what came out of my mouth tonight. The poor barrister found himself being referred to as “My honour…. Your honourship… My lordship… Your lord”. Just say “My Lord”, Imogen. I’ll write it on my hand next time.

My verdict is that whilst I can see why people were saying it was ‘a kind of agony’, I think it just might be the kind of ‘agony’ which you are really glad you experienced as soon as its over. A kind of “this-will-make-a-good-memory” agony. Perhaps even a “when-can’I-try-this-again?” agony.

First moot completed? Check. Slightly improved lawyer-brain? Check. Mooting in front of a real judge? You bet! Adrenaline levels returned to normal? It’s a moot point.

Thanks to Imogen Proud for this fab insight into first-time mooting – Imogen embarked on her GDL at The City Law School in September 2013.

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