Why you should try mooting as a law student

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. 

Mooting Bristol
Photo from University of Bristol Law School/UBLC Mooting Launch Night 2018-19

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: 

Oral skills 

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. 

Teamwork 

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. 

Rigour 

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.  

Attention 

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. 

Humility 

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. 

Humanity 

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. 

Image from Landmark Chambers Moot final round with Lord Carnwath

Further information

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.

“Big law in a prestigious firm isn’t for everyone” – mentoring insights from law alumna, Sarah Brufal

As part of ‘Mentoring Month’ this October, we caught up with one of our current Professional Mentoring Scheme mentors, law alumna and Head of Legal EMEA at Siemens Digital Industries Software, Sarah Brufal. Sarah explains how she came to be a mentor on the scheme, and her tips and learnings for students considering joining a mentoring scheme.

A couple of years ago I did something I had been meaning to do for a long time … I sent an email to the Law Faculty at Bristol University and asked if they needed any support from an alumnus. I wondered if I could do anything useful and I was really interested to see how (if at all) things had changed since my day! I had so many great memories of being a student in Bristol in the early 90’s – wow that makes me sound incredibly old. It was a great introduction to Law and we had so many varied and talented Professors – all with such huge passion for the Law.

Amazingly I got an answer back straight away and was soon put in touch with Rosa and found myself with a new mentee shortly after that. I have had two mentees so far and, although Covid has limited the experience this year, I have taken a lot of positives and learnt a lot from the Scheme and my mentees:

  • My Most Significant Recollection: Remembering how little you really know about life in the Law when you are at University and what career options are open to you;
  • My Most Important Learning: That “big law” in a prestigious City law firm isn’t for everyone;
  • My Deepest Sympathy: Seeing how painstaking it is to complete all those job application forms with something interesting; and
  • My Greatest Enjoyment: Showing my first mentee what life In House in Industry is like when she came on work experience.

My top tip for anyone thinking of joining the scheme would be to reach out and speak up. Both my mentees have been very good at asking questions and in asking for support when needed. I think that is so important. Never think you are wasting anyone’s time or asking too much – as lawyers, who always have a view, they will tell you if they think you are!

More about Sarah

Sarah Brufal joined Siemens Digital Industries Software as Head of Legal EMEA in 2014. Since then she has worked as part of a fantastic team of legal professionals working to help bring customer success in the innovative worlds of Software and Digitalisation.

Having started her career in private practice at Ashursts and Shearman & Sterling, Sarah moved in-house and has held General Counsel roles at General Electric in London and Middle East.

Further information

Securing a mentor can help you to develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as communication and personal skills, increase your confidence and motivation and provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into an area of law or non-law that you are considering pursuing.

Many of the mentoring schemes on offer through the Law School close for applications at the end of October 2020, so make sure you read about each scheme before applying. Find out more about our various mentoring schemes and how to apply here.

My Experience with the Law in Society Mentoring Scheme: Why I Did it and Why You Should Too

As part of ‘Mentoring Month’ this October, we caught up with recent law grad, Haneet Sagoo on why she chose to apply for the Law in Society mentoring scheme and how it helped shape her career aspirations. Find out how you can do more with law below.

It’s safe to say that signing up to the Law in Society Mentoring scheme was one of the best decisions I made in my final year. Here I’ll tell you how it worked and why it was such a beneficial experience.

Who Should Apply?

Anyone who is thinking about what they’d like to do after uni and wants to explore their options! The scheme is especially great for law students who are looking at careers outside the straightforward commercial law route. For example, I wanted to explore a career in international humanitarian aid and I was able to match with a mentor with years of experience in that sector.

Getting started

I applied for the scheme because I’d always had an interest in human rights focused work but I didn’t know what the steps were to get there. So, when I heard about the mentoring scheme where you could be matched with a professional in a sector you were interested in, I jumped at the chance!

The scheme is set up in a really interactive way from the off. After applying through PLN and being matched with our mentor, we were invited to the introduction evening where we got the chance to meet our fellow mentees, chat about what we all wanted to get out of the experience and set up a plan for our first official meeting. Our mentor was working abroad at the time so we had a virtual mentorship – all this meant was that our meetings were on skype rather than in-person! You also have to appoint a team leader which I highly recommend putting yourself forward for if you’re looking to practice your organisational/admin skills.

Mentor Meetings

So, these were the main focus of the mentoring scheme and BY FAR one of the most important things I did in final year. Every group is different but our setup was just to come to the meeting with a few questions for our mentor as starting points and then let the conversation flow. The advice and insight we gained was invaluable and really helped me to narrow down what areas I’d be interested working in. We were also incredibly lucky in that our mentor was so engaged and would send follow up documents with links to internships, volunteer programmes etc. to do with things we had discussed. One of the best things to come out of the scheme for me was my mentor giving me a contact who was doing the same volunteering abroad that I was interested in – you don’t get this kind of career help every day!

Tips to make the most of your meetings:

  • Build a set of questions between each meeting so you can get the most out of your time with your mentor, rather than just turning up for a chat!
  • Follow up on any tips or leads your mentor gives you before your next meeting – this gives you a chance to build a good back-and-forth and helps your conversations to progress.
  • Work as a team with your fellow mentees! Since you have similar interests they are the best people to collaborate with and talk to about your ideas for the future.

Why I Recommend the Scheme

Overall, I didn’t realise how much I needed the mentor scheme until I did it. Not only did it give me a chance to build connections and get advice directly from an industry professional, but I was also able to practice my communication and organisational skills. With graduation looming the pressure to know what you’re doing next can be intense but my advice is to get involved with schemes like this, explore your options and you’ll go forward with a much clearer idea of what you want!

Further information

Securing a mentor can help you to develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as communication and personal skills, increase your confidence and motivation and provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into an area of law or non-law that you are considering pursuing.

The Law in Society Mentoring Scheme opens for applications on Monday 12 October. Many of the mentoring schemes on offer through the Law School close for applications at the end of October 2020, so make sure you read about each scheme before applying. Find out more about our various mentoring schemes and how to apply here.

Working in legal tech – an interview with law grad, Adam Hunter

Adam is a legal tech IGNITE Trainee Solicitor at Clifford Chance, who was recently recognised as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Junior Lawyers in the UK by The Legal Technologist Magazine. During his training contract, Adam has worked in the Real Estate, TMT (Technology, Media and Telecoms) and Corporate Financial Institutions teams and has completed a client secondment at Amazon. Adam has also recently joined the Law School’s Professional Mentoring Scheme as a mentor for 2020-21.

Understanding Legal Tech

What is legal technology?

Legal technology or ‘legal tech’ essentially means using technology to provide legal services. It is increasingly becoming a strategic focus at  law firms, chambers and in-house legal teams, who are all looking to utilise new and emerging technologies such as chatbots, contract automation and e-discovery platforms to become more efficient and add value to their services to clients. Often this technology is built and designed by or in collaboration with legal tech start-ups.

When did you first become interested in legal tech?

I became interested in legal tech in my final year at Bristol Law School when I had an idea to modernise the traditional legal recruitment ‘milk round’ and help make it more accessible to students from under-represented backgrounds using technology. I built and launched an AI-based chatbot that provided students with free applications advice and connected them to graduate recruitment teams. In its first year, the chatbot was used by over 2000 students across several universities and I had the opportunity to partner with eight international law firms.

Why is legal technology important?

There are four key reasons why I think legal technology is important:

  • Being more client-centric – Legal tech provides us with an opportunity to challenge traditional methods of providing legal advice. Instead of sending advice to clients in lengthy Word documents and emails, we can consider whether it is more useful to communicate our advice to clients through tools such as online portals and sites.
  • Efficiency and competitive pricing  – Law firms are under pressure from clients to reduce their fees. Legal tech can help make our processes as efficient as possible, by reducing the more mundane tasks and automating or outsourcing some of these. This includes integrating tools such as document automation (e.g. CC Dr@ft), machine-learning contract review (e.g. Kira) and e-signing platforms (e.g. DocUSign). Ultimately, this allows us to offer more competitive fee arrangements to clients.
  • Diversification and new legal products– A lot of our clients come to us with global, complex issues. By designing and offering new products and solutions, we can have closer relationships with clients, where we are more integrated into their processes and better positioned to support their in-house legal teams with their most pressing legal and commercial challenges.
  • Influencing the future of the legal industry– Some of our ideas are best described as ‘blue sky thinking’. Perhaps they aren’t ready for our clients yet but as legal advisers, we want to anticipate our clients’ future needs and be a part of shaping the future of the legal industry.

Training Contract Advice

What would be your advice to students who want to learn more about legal technology?

  • Look to other industries for inspiration– My top tip would be to look at businesses in other industries and see how they have used technology to transform and grow. A lot of my inspiration comes from looking at tech strategies that other companies have adopted and considering if these ideas can be applied to legal processes at Clifford Chance.  In particular, I would recommend the Stratechery blog or Harvard Business Review’s Exponential View podcast, which are accessible ways of learning about the strategy and business side of technology.
  • Keep an eye out for developments in the legal tech market – I wouldn’t worry too much about conducting detailed research on the legal tech market (unless you are super interested!). However, it is useful to understand what technology is out there and any general trends in the market. I would recommend blog posts by Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, The Legal Technologistand The Artificial Lawyer.
  • Legal tech events and internships – Some legal tech start-ups offer short internships over the summer. There are also lots of events to meet like-minded students and individuals working in legal tech. The largest legal tech event in the UK, Legal Geek, is coming up in October 2020 and is free to sign up. I’ll be attending! The Law School has also partnered with international law firm, Osborne Clarke to create a LegalTech placement for current students. This opportunity partners law students with a computer science students to tackle real-life projects, using emerging technologies. Find out more about the scheme here.

What skills should students interested in legal tech look to develop?

  • Coding is not required– A lot of students ask me if they need to be able to code to get involved in legal tech. Coding is not always required. I rarely code as part of my legal tech training contract (only as a hobby). What I think is more important is understanding the different tools that are out there so that you can make suggestions such as “perhaps we can provide that using an app or an API”. There are quite a few online courses and short YouTube videos that can help get you up to speed on the latest tech that businesses are adopting.
  • Learn how digital products are developed–  Entrepreneurship is the process of turning ideas into actual products or services and when it occurs in large organisations this is often referred to as intrapreneurship. Being able to understand this process of how to turn an idea into reality (from idea, to prototype, to launch and beyond!) is super important. A great starting point is the book “The Lean Startup” which has a lot of principles you can apply as a legal tech lawyer.

How can I talk about legal tech in a training contract interview?

  • Remember it is a legal training contract interview first and foremost– Don’t forget that legal tech is an important topic that is likely to come up in your interview but it is unlikely to be the main or sole topic for discussion. It is important that you understand the firm you are applying to, can talk about your skills and experiences and also demonstrate your interest in law and commercial awareness.
  • Show you understand the implications of legal technology– Technology provides a lot of opportunities for law firms and their clients. However, it also has a lot of challenges and you must be able to show that you understand the implications of legal tech when discussing your ideas. A key concern is often cybersecurity!
  • If you discuss a legal tech idea, appreciate that your initial idea may not be perfect– Often our ideas are not perfect the first time around. Your interviewer may have more experience and provide a new perspective that you had not considered. Designing legal technology is a process. It involves learning, testing and validating your ideas step by step. Be prepared to ‘pivot’ or redesign your ideas as the interview progresses.

Good luck!

Further information

For more information on exploring specific career options, current law students can access tailored careers advice through our regular Employability Bulletin and a wealth of resources on our Blackboard page here. See our full Careers and Employability webpages here.