Moot Court Advocacy Series – Season III: ‘Teamwork’, Episode I: ‘When You Plead’

Welcome to the first episode of season III of the Moot Court advocacy series! We have already covered many aspects of both written and oral advocacy. What is common for both of them is the need to cooperate effectively with your teammates – and this is an entirely different skill to acquire. So, are you ready to make the first step?

I remember it as if it was yesterday – a huge hall full of audience watching the final pleading of the moot court competition I participated in. That would be better for me than a football match, if only I were not pleading… The team we faced was excellent and unlike me and my co-counsel, spoke native English. As we anticipated, the counsel from the opposing team was found to be the best of us four in the final pleading. What we did not anticipate was that the arbitrators decided that our team was the winner. Why? With hindsight, I think it was exactly for that reason: instead of being two good advocates pleading next to each other me and my co-counsel formed a superior team together.

Moot courts are fun because you do not do them alone. As I have already mentioned with regard to the written memorials, teamwork is essential for successful performance (not to mention enjoying the moot experience!). Firstly, you prepare your written submissions as a team. Then, you plead in front of the judges as a team. Making sure you are always there for each other and learning how to show the judges your cooperation is indispensable for success.

Follow this advice if you wish to learn how to leverage teamwork to win!

  1. Learn how to work together

Mooting is often compared to a team sport. Just like in football or volleyball, you need to spend sufficient time training with each other to learn how to act as a team. For the purpose of an oral pleading you usually have to learn how to work with just one person – your co-counsel. The more time you send pleading with each other the better. Initially you will be only ale to react to what is going on in the courtroom and react to your co-counsels words. After more and more time spent pleading together you might literally start reading your co-counsels mind: opening the record in response to the panel’s questions even before he or she starts answering, giving unnoticeable signals that only you will understand, all in al – being a true team. And that is magic which can win you your moot.

  1. Always be there for each other

Remember what I mentioned at the very beginning about being two counsels just pleading next to each other and being a team? The most important thing you need to do to undergo this transformation is awareness that your co-counsel needs you during the entire pleading – and that you need him or her as well. You have to stay alert and focus on what is going on. Firstly, do the time keeping for your co-counsel (like I described it here). Secondly, be ready to open the record at the right page when needed. Thirdly, if you see you co-counsel is in trouble, try to help if you can – in most of the competitions it is perfectly fine to write down a short hint on the piece of paper that should be lying between you two. Fourthly, listen to your opponents’ pleadings and pay attention to everything that can help your co-counsel’s case – inconsistencies, misstatements, and errors in fact or in law. Fifthly, refill the glass, so that there is always enough water. Lastly, just be supportive! It is much easier to survive a stressful experience that a moot court pleading undoubtedly is when you have someone by your side.

  1. Behave appropriately

During a pleading the judges will be more focused on the counsel who is speaking, but it does not mean the other one can lie back. When it is not your turn to plead, you need to demonstrate that you are paying attention. Maintain eye contact with the tribunal and a calm face expression. Sit straight, just as if you were pleading  (if you are sitting closer to the tribunal, make sure you lean back a little to make sure all the arbitrators can see your co-counsel well). Do not tap, play with a pen or do anything distracting in general. Do the timekeeping and other activities that are supposed to help your co-counsel in a way which makes them impossible to notice. At the end of the day – it is your co-counsel who has the floor and if something diverts the judges attention from that person elsewhere, his or hers persuasiveness suffers.

In conclusion, no matter how obvious it might seem, being a good co-counsel proves to be quite challenging during the demanding and stressful of pleading. However, I am convinced that if you bear the aforementioned advice in mind you will not fail!

All the best,

Marek

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