The thumping heartbeat, the instant dry-mouth and the strangled voice-chords – the symptoms of mooting are near inescapable. For some aspiring barristers, the experience is an ordeal which puts them off altogether. For perhaps more, mooting is an artificial but necessary exercise, a pre-requisite of any pupillage application. Among future solicitors, mooting is rare indeed. All of this is unsurprising given the heed law students must pay to the selection criteria of firms and chambers. However, I propose that the true value of mooting is not how well it furnishes a CV, but rather how it enhances a candidate’s skills.
There are few situations in which a speaker must not only persuade his audience, but also where he has an antagonist endeavouring to unpick his arguments. Mooting is one such situation. Debating is another, but is prone to more rhetoric and less substantiation, for which budding law students prefer mooting. I would suggest a third entry to the list: the interview room.
The scrutiny of interviewers takes many forms, ranging from friendly smiles to hawkish glares, from mundane questions to bizarre enquiries. All candidates aspire to that elusive answer which synthesises their intellect and experiences. However, even a perfect riposte only provides short relief before the next question.
A moot simulates this unpredictable atmosphere. The questions from a moot judge are numerous and probing, often departing from the substantive legal arguments and demanding why a particular case was used, or, more occasionally, why the case is even worth the court’s valuable time. Further scrutiny comes from the other side who will try to demolish your case, both in law and on the facts. To moot well requires foresight of the arguments and interventions that will likely be made, but, more importantly, a flexibility of thought as to unforeseen obstacles. The ability to quickly adapt to contrary opinions is crucial and its improvement should translate well to interview.
This is not to say that mooting is the only means by which to improve these skills; pro bono and debating to name but two others. However, it should be acknowledged that mooting is an activity which is defined by the skills stated, and is valuable for that reason. In light of a law student’s busy schedule, the allocation of time to any activity must be sensible – but in the view of this author, a moot or two should pay dividends for either legal profession. Ravi Jackson - Head of Writers