Current law students, Max Sakoschek and Mayank Tripathi recently took part in the Landmark Chambers intervarsity mooting competition, representing the University of Bristol Law School. Having reached the final round, Max has written this blog post to share his wisdom on why you should give mooting a try.
Being a second-year law student, one could say that my mooting experience is far from extensive, but the knowledge and skills I have gained so far in participating in a few moots this past year has given me the tools and the foundations that I will hold with me for the rest of my professional career.
So here are my two cents on what skills one could hope to develop by participating in mooting competitions:
To get the obvious out of the way, a career in pretty much anything, requires at least a basic capacity to express oneself well – in some professions more than others. But what is sure, is that none require more attention to detail, more regard for tone, or more care in articulation than the barrister in court. It is the art of speech and the pursuit of its perfection that has driven me to a career at the bar (hopefully someday soon). Like with any skill, perfection demands practice. There is no easier way to practice this art than in a moot, facing an unconvinced judge. I have found that mooting resembles a natural conversation with a peer far more than any other form of public speaking, compared to say, debating – making it less daunting, more accessible, and ultimately more enjoyable. It is for this reason that I have come to adore mooting.
Again, an obvious one. Mooting helps participants hone their ability to work as a team. To be honest, a lot depends on who your teammate actually is but every once in a while, you get the perfect push to your pull. This was the case between Mayank and me. By providing each other with constructive criticism and having open lines of communication, we were able to evaluate each other’s arguments, assist with research and coordinate our approach so as to formulate the very best way to deliver our submissions.
I think attention to detail is any lawyer’s cup of tea, in some regard or other. Mooting is all about figuring out just where the law sits on an issue and it is about carving your way through the law to deliver a polished fool-proof argument. This can only be done by having a firm grip on the subject matter. Very often, it is the simplest argument that best resonates with the judge. So one could say that rigour, in mooting, is taught not through figuring out what to say but rather figuring out what is not worth saying. This skill can be transposed to all number of different aspects in life, in the office or in the court.
Structure and succinctness
Like with any good story, there needs to be a beginning, a middle, and an end. Too often have I seen (myself included) a participant lose themselves in their own argument, being overly wordy and repetitive. Mooting quite quickly teaches you to be sharp and to the point with anything that requires explanation. Succinctness is a skill most cherished not only by your firm, or the judge, but also by your clients. Quite paradoxically, at least for me, fluidity in speech seems to translate into fluidity of thought, rather than the other way round. Developing my skills in speech seems to have had an impact on my capacity to structure my thought processes.
While this is a little more difficult over zoom, its application is nevertheless crucial. The very best moments in mooting for me are when I am able to change the way I deliver my submissions depending on how the judge is reacting to what I am saying. An ever so slight smirk, a nod or a frown are all as valuable as gold for any mooter, because these indicate as to whether what you are saying is at all being bought by the judge. Figuring out where you stand with a person you are speaking to is as valuable as anything for a lawyer.
The road to the bar, as exhibited by practically every barrister out there is rife with failure, so it seems only appropriate to get used to it right out the gate. The best learning experiences you will get in mooting are when a judge completely calls you out on the logical inconsistencies of your arguments. This, I believe, will make you a better lawyer.
Perhaps the most striking example for me was the degree of humanity I discovered when mooting in the finals of the Landmark Chambers Moot, in the privileged and terrifying position of submitting my arguments to none other than the former Supreme Court Justice Lord Carnwath and Mr David Elvin QC from Landmark Chambers, sitting as judges. My terror turned to content as I discovered that the judges were really rather pleasant and helped exemplify the principle that a barrister is really only there to aid the judge in discovering the truth of the matter and nothing more.
All in all, mooting teaches you fundamental skills that will stick with you for the rest of your life. It’s a good laugh. Oh, and the prizes for winning usually are quite good as well – so there’s that.
If you’d like to find out more about the practical opportunities available to students, through the Law School and student societies, take a look at our Careers and Employability pages. Considering studying law? See why studying at Bristol will allow you to do more with law than you ever imagined.