Once you step into a law college, your seniors and faculty members may acquaint you with Moot Courts.
It’s something exclusive to law schools and law students.
So, What exactly is a Moot Court?
It’s an extracurricular activity in which law students take part in simulated court proceedings (like lawyers in court). One team competes against other teams. And they argue a case usually referred as a moot problem before a judge or a panel of judges.
What Happens in a Moot?
- Three students (one researcher and two speakers) generally represent a team from a college.
- The day begins by an inaugural ceremony. Then the preliminary rounds start.
- Each team has to present the case from both sides i.e. the plaintiff and the defendant.
- A Moot court does not involve witnesses, cross-examinations, the presentation of evidence etc. Here, participants solely focus on the application of the law, to a common set of evidentiary assumptions and facts.
- Each speaker usually speaks between 10 and 25 minutes, covering the main issues.
- Usually, there will be a short round of rebuttal (a counter argument by the opposite team). And even sur-rebuttal after the main submissions are complete.
- Depending on the format of the moot, there may be one or two rounds of rebuttal and sur-rebuttal. Throughout the course of the submissions, judges may ask questions.
- Judges give marks considering your memorials, overall presentation, arguments, research, court etiquettes etc.
- The judging committee eliminates the teams which scored less after the preliminary rounds are over. Teams which scored high go to the semi-final round. The judging committee then selects two teams for the finals, after the semi-finals.
- All rounds follow the same procedure described above.
- Depending on the format of the moot, the moot problem usually remains the same throughout.
How to Participate in a Moot Court Competition?
- Various law schools and law-related organizations conduct Moot Court competitions. Some of the moot court competitions are invitation-based only, which means that the organizers invite only select law colleges for the moot. While many moot court competitions are ‘open’ competitions, where registrations are done on a first-come-first-serve basis.
- Check out your college’s notice board or follow some websites which provide updates on moot court competitions like Legally India, Lawctopus, etc.
- Many law colleges also have moot court societies that do the internal selections.
- Application procedure usually involves filling up a registration form, paying a registration fee, etc.
Moots are not a ‘one-day’ thing for participants. It takes a few months to be well-prepared for a moot.
It Starts with Registrations
Register for the competition well before time and avoid the last minute hustle. After registration, if there are any changes regarding the competition(the case, its rules, etc) then the organizing college will inform you about it. Be in touch with their student coordinator for any changes or updates regarding the competition.
When a Moot Court Competition is Announced, the organizers release a moot problem, which is a set of facts based on which you are expected to make your moot court memorials. First, read your Moot Problem thoroughly. Until you understand the moot problem completely, don’t step further. Reading carefully will familiarise you with the facts and the issues involved. Then, move to make the memo.
Moot Court Memorial
It is usually referred to as a ‘memo’. It is a document that a moot court team prepares. Generally, two memorials are prepared by every team, one for the plaintiff and one for the defendants. Because the team has to present their case from both the sides.
A memo consists of the facts, your arguments and a prayer (the relief you want from the court).
You need to do a lot of research for this. Draft your memo neatly, as the judging committee will examine your memo as well and accordingly give you marks. Submit the best memo you can. A well-researched and well-formatted memo will not only help you score good points (around 20-30% of the total marks) but it also leaves a good impression on the judges. Your team can also grab the ‘Best Memorial Award’, in case your memo turns out to be, the best amongst others.
To present the oral arguments properly, you need to practice.
Don’t try to memorize your arguments. Instead, you can write down important points on a sheet of paper and elaborate it while speaking. Practice speaking individually as well as with your team. Practice in front of the mirror or record your audio and listen to it.
Later, speak in front of your team, seniors and ask for their feedback. Such improvisation techniques help a lot to gain confidence and also prepares you for some expected questions.
- Inquire in your college, are they going to reimburse the amount spent on travel, accommodation, etc. Accordingly, book your train tickets well in advance.
- Make arrangements for your accommodation, if it’s not provided by the college organizing the competition.
- Make a list of bare acts, commentaries, notes, etc. to be taken there. Remember, you can afford not taking some of your clothes but not missing out important notes or bare acts. So, pack your luggage keeping in mind that you also have to carry these huge books.
- You will be given a date before the actual competition, to submit your memo. Make sure you submit it on time.
- Bow down before u go to present your case.
- ‘My Lord’ and ‘Your lordship’ when you address the judge. The difference is that ‘My Lord’ is the mode of addressing a judge in the vocative case, while ‘Your lordship’ is the mode of referring to the judge in the course of a sentence, as a polite substitute for ‘you’. Female judges are addressed as ‘My Lady’, ‘Your ladyship’.
- ‘My Learned friend’ or ‘My Learned Senior’ when you refer to the opponent’s counsel.
- The formula for opening a case is:
‘May it please your lordship(s), I am appearing on behalf of the plaintiff/defendant/applicant/respondent. My submission will address…’
- Referring to authorities:
‘If I could take Your Lordship to pg. 45, this is the case of X v Y…’
‘If I can direct your lordship’s attention to…’
- Dealing with judicial interventions:
‘I’m grateful for your assistance My Lord, and I apologize for not having expressed myself clearly’
‘I didn’t intend to deal with that point, My Lord, it is not a ground of appeal, however…’
‘My Lord, I had intended to address a different point with this authority, but should Your Lordship wish to hear argument on this…’
‘Indeed My Lord, that is true, though I would submit that the present case can be distinguished on the facts.’
- Disagreeing with a judge:
‘My Lord, you make a good point, however…’
- Useful anywhere:
‘It is our/my client’s position that…’
‘My client would say…’
‘In the instant case..’
‘If the Court is well aware of the facts may I proceed with the issues?’
‘I will show that’. . . rather than ‘I will argue that . . . ‘
‘In my respectful submission . . .’
‘The Court may allow us to….’
‘I would be obliged if the Court would clarify the question.’
‘I apologize for…’
‘I am afraid I don’t understand the Court’s point.’
‘I accept the Court’s point, however, it is my submission that…’
‘I humbly request the Court to…’
- Avoid phrases like “I think”, “I believe”, “I feel”. Use formal terms – ‘we submit’, ‘it is our submission’ or ‘it is submitted that’.
- Conclude with one of the following statements:
“That concludes my submission.”
“Unless the Court has any further questions, that concludes my submission.”
Some Tips useful during the competition:
- Wear a proper formal attire.
- Start with a summary of your argument. Keep your points before the judge in a sequential pattern.
- Keep your notes(handwritten/printed) ready and keep neat, so that even your moot partner can read it if required.
- Make Eye contact with the judges while speaking.
- Form a conversation with the bench and speak with a deliberate speed.
- Do not point fingers and make hand gestures while speaking.
- Never overspeak. Even if the judge interrupts you, stop talking. Continue after the judge stops.
- Don’t just read out your argument from the moot memo. Use your notes while arguing and point out important and relevant parts from the moot memo.
- Don’t raise your voice too loud, but be audible and clear.
- Adjust your voice tone according to the submission you make, emphasize where required.
- Too many cases/authorities may become boring and confusing. Stick to the most important ones.
- Just talk facts and law. No one cares about your personal opinions here.
- Use plain English and avoid legalese.
- Sum up your argument briefly before concluding.
- It helps you enhance your legal research and writing skills.
- You learn to work in a team.
- Such competitions improve your understanding of Law.
- You have to answer questions you weren’t expecting. So, it also helps improve your presence of mind.
- Builds self-confidence and legal vocabulary.
- It improves your speaking skills.
- Get an exposure to the management and working of such competitions.
- Travel, meet new people and learn from them.
Participating in Moot Court competitions will help you develop those skills, critical to growing as a successful lawyer. So don’t think much, just step into the field and get started.