Moot Court Advocacy Series – Season II: ‘Oral Advocacy’, Episode I: ‘Mindset and Goals’

Hi everyone! This post is the beginning of the second season of the Moot Court Advocacy Series! In the first season we discussed the basics of written advocacy. Now it is time to focus on something that many mooties always await impatiently: pleading in front of moot court tribunals.

Before moving forward, I have an important ‘disclaimer’ to make: oral part of every moot court is a very subjective competition. Personal preferences, academic background and a wide range of other factors determine what a particular judge likes or dislikes. Some competitions might also have their own unique ‘decorum’.  For every five moot court judges, one will disagree with the advice I give here and another will ignore the technique or aspect altogether. But I believe that the rest will notice and reward playing in accordance with these rules, what maximizes your chances of success.

In the first episode I would like to focus on the correct attitude towards pleading in front of a moot court tribunal. Right mindset and a clear idea what you want to achieve will help you enormously. When you argue your case in front of a tribunal, you are there to

1. Assist the tribunal in solving a complex issue

The task of every judge and arbitrator is to solve a dispute in a legally correct, just, time- and cost-effective way. Counsels, and this is the role that you play during a moot, should support their efforts. You will be rewarded for helpful attitude. A moot court pleading is not an oral exam at the university where you have to show you have learnt the textbook by heart (even though some arbitrators tend to forget it) – it is your opportunity to help the judges understand how facts and law interacted in the case you are working on and what consequences it should have. The more helpful you are, the higher you credibility and chances to sway the decision in your favour.

2. Have a friendly intellectual discussion about the problem

Moot courts, especially the ones that simulate commercial or investment arbitration, are not as uptight and formal as you might think. Pleadings are not (entirely) a play in the theatre and counsels are not just actor that have to recite their monologue. The best pleadings that I have seen were a respectful, yet relaxed conversations that could naturally flow from one issue to another. Many arbitrators and judges will invite with their questions and approach to have this conversation and will be disappointed if you turn out to be inflexible and reject this opportunity in favour of your memorized script.

3. Show that you are a brilliant, likeable person

Moot court judges and arbitrators do not attend these events to take out all their bad emotions on counsels or torture students until they manage to prove them wrong. The vast majority of arbitrators dedicates the little spare time they have to sitting on the panels because they enjoy seeing how intelligent and knowledgeable young people try to solve a riddle that they would struggle with if they were to plead it. Let them like you and prove that you are a clever  counsel they would happily work with in a real proceedings!

4. Persuade the tribunal that you are right

Being helpful, well-prepared, open towards the tribunal and likeable serves your ultimate goal: persuasion. Even in a mock trial you represent your clients and play a game with a lot of money at stake. A moot court pleading is not an academic debate with many ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’. You should stay focused on the task: making sure the tribunal finds you and your arguments more credible and persuasive.

5. Enjoy it!

At the end of the day, moot court pleadings are just fun – or at least should be for counsels. Pleading and arguing is an exciting, stimulating, even addictive experience. Once you try, it might be hard to let it go – you have been warned 🙂

All the best,

Marek

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