Master the Art of Mooting

Aug 9, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

The art of what?  That’s right: mooting.  Ever hear of mock trial?  A moot is a mock legal hearing.  You play the role of counsel and deliver oral arguments—before a real judge.

Students are required to respond to all questions the judge asks.  At the end of the moot, the judge typically offers a judgment or commentary on your work.

The benefits? Practice designing and delivering credible arguments, answering questions, and thinking on your feet.—and get feedback that can help you grow as a lawyer. 

Want to master the art of mooting?  Let’s take a look at six strategies.

 

1. Know your case.

This is the most time-consuming—and the most critical piece of mooting.  If you don’t know your case, you have nothing from which to draw.

Understand the case, your arguments, counter arguments, and all nuances associated with it.  Why?  You need to be ready to answer any questions that come your way.  This means that you need to be an expert on the case and all other pertinent information.

How do you start?  Hit the books.  Look of the area of law in a textbook, read the section on it, and study a few relevant cases.  Get a sense of what you’re arguing—and why.

Read all the opinions, too—that’s where you’ll find the nuance.

2. Practice with your mooting partner.

Don’t have a mooting partner?  Get one.  In this case, two heads are always better than one.

Think of every meeting as a dress rehearsal.  Practice your delivery and polish your performance.  Write a list of questions you anticipate from the judge, and have your partner do the same.  By working together, you have a better chance of anticipating at least more of the questions a judge would ask.

Have a working knowledge of your partner’s approach, too. Why? There’s typically more than one right approach, more than one right answer, and more than one right way to ask a difficult question. 

 

3. Dress for success.

That is, dress the way you’d dress in court.  It’s always a good idea to make a good impression on the judge.  This doesn’t mean to dress extravagantly, but to approach the moot—and the people volunteering their time to help law students, like the judge—with respect. 

A few guidelines? Be conservative.  Wear a suit.  Comb your hair.

4. Watch the judge.

It’s important to note if the judge is taking notes.  Why?  You’re making either really good points, or really bad ones.  The point is—whatever you’re arguing while the judge is writing is going to be a question later.  Be ready.

Another point here: watch the speed of your speech.  Keep your voice slow and steady.  If you see the judge writing, slow it down even more, so the judge can get everything down.

 

5. Watch the pros.

Go to your local court and watch.  Things to look for?  Style.  Terminology.  Phrasing.  Structure.  Cross examination.

Even better?  Take your mooting partner.  Both of you should take notes and then reflect on what you saw together.

While you may not have a sense of your argumentative style yet, it’s ok to mimic those that you see.  At a minimum, it’s helpful to see the strategies that winning lawyers use—and the ones that the losing sides use, too.  You’ll learn what to do—and what not to do, just by watching.

6. Be open to constructive feedback.

The key here is growth mindset.  You’re not going to be good at mooting until you do it, and doing it might mean struggling through it the first few times.

Judges will give feedback—sometimes in general to the entire moot, and sometimes individually.  They will also often offer email or meeting times for personal feedback.

When a judge gives you feedback, in front of everybody or not, look at the chance for the opportunity to learn something about yourself.

You’ll know what you did well—and you’ll know what you need to work on.  Look at the experience as you have the luxury to do as a law student—one of learning.

Learn more about studying law.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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