Last term Judge Donald Cryan came to City to talk about mooting to eager students – as a law student mooting is an absolute must. It is nervewracking of course, but the only way to boost your confidence is to do as much as possible in order to conquer the fear.
For all you wannabe solicitors, do not think that it is designed solely for barristers, because advocacy skills are essential and you will wish you had a practice round first. That’s what mooting does, it is the closest that a law graduate can get to actually being in a courtroom scenario and being involved, without being qualified.
This is why we do it of course, sign up with our eyes closed and get on with it. Once your turn is over it’s a sigh of relief, until you start worrying about whether you have made an impression or not. I was very excited to attend an evening of useful tips in the art of mooting with Judge Cryan.
Judge Cryan was called to the bar in 1970, is a member of Inner Temple and currently sits on the Education and Training Committee there. He became a recorder in 1993, progressed to become a Circuit Judge in 1996 (South East circuit) and currently sits in the Family Division of the High Court . He actively participates in the reform of Family Law (he is a member of The Centre for Child and Family Law Reform) and has co- written a paper on forced marriages. His expertise in this area is widely known, and he has delivered papers in Australia and Japan.
Apart from the usual advice about arriving on time and switching your phones off, Judge Cryan offered a range of hints on how to approach mooting…
1. There is nothing more important than preparation.
“You can’t wing it, you must know what you are saying and even if you have a quick wit about you this does not mean that you can blag your way through a moot – you have to work at it”.
Know the problem, the issues and you must have thought ahead of how you are going to present it. You do this by knowing the factual matrix of the case or problem that you’re dealing with, you must have complete command of the facts that you are dealing with by reading and re-reading all the facts, write them down, do whatever it takes to get them into your head!
If you don’t and the other person is prepared they can wrong foot you, especially if you have not grasped something properly.
2. Know the law
The case will steer you.
3. Give yourself time to do it.
You are not going to be able to do it the night before. Set out what you are going to say to yourself before the moot and then bin it because you must be able to present your legal argument off heart and your point may not be as crisp if you are reading and not making eye contact with the moot judge.
Sort it out into headings and then tackle the moot problem from there. Organisation is key!! Key!! Key!! and the way you flick from document to document easily will count in your favour especially when the judge can follow exactly where you are in your bundle. Have a good index page to show what you are going to be relying on for the judge, and flag-up each individual case so the judge knows where to look. Highlight the passages in yellow to save time. Quote passages in your skeleton argument. Choose your documents carefully, only using those which strengthen your case not just those that concur with one legal point.
5. Skeleton argument
It is important that the mention made to any authorities (cases, legislation etc) are referenced precisely in your skeleton. Link to the bundle and spoon-feed the judge. Not all judges will look at the moot problem beforehand which is why organisation and a correctly referenced bundle is key. Another useful addition is a chronology of the facts of the case so the judge can turn to it easily.
Start your skeleton argument out with the issues you are going to argue and points you intend to tackle. Then, introduce authorities in context, don’t just jump straight into citing the authority say why you are using it and then cite the case and why it is relevant.
6. Advocacy skills
If you find that you have a legal point against you don’t avoid it, tackle it best to your ability. This is important because the judge is going to know of the point against you and they are going to wonder how you are going to deal with that point. Leaving the legal point against you is going distract the judge throughout your skeleton or submission statement, so it is best you deal with it head-on so that you and the judge can focus on your other points.
You may lose the case if your do not tackle the point against you and neutralise it. You may lose the moot anyway but the better you put it forward, the better you can deal with it as an advocate.
You must look as smart as possible in your court gear. Project your voice, do not be too confident, it is alright to smile but not too much. Arrogance is a self-indulgence so you must strike a balance.
Remember that the most important person in the room of a moot is the judge. That judge has got to be concentrating upon you, and you must pay attention to what he or she is doing and how they are reacting to your points. The only person you need to persuade is the judge in order to win. You have to develop as far as possible a positive rapport with the judge, sometimes judges can throw you a bone to help or further your legal point.
Lastly, it is an exercise in salesmanship. Selling your ideas and concepts on the moot point is persuading the judge to buy what you are selling.
Speak up, make sure you project your voice and that does not mean looking at your notes. You must make eye contact with the judge, this matters hugely to the whole process of advocacy.
Remember the judge may not know the area of law you are talking about, but you cannot patronise him/her – you must strike a balance. Be careful to take note of the judge’s tone towards you and his or her response to what you are saying. Ask if he wants assistance, this is essential. Don’t repeat points that the judge has already got (tedious!)but if the judge invites you to have a look at the points again then do so. Be reactive to what the judge is saying and thinking- go with his pen.
I will most certainly be taking on board these wise words from Judge Cryan. I think selling yourself on paper as a law student is tough, and mooting gives you a chance to shine. So what are you waiting for?
Thanks to Dola Ajibade for this great write-up of the evening with Judge Donald Cryan. Dola is a current GDL student at The City Law School.