Current Mooting Competition
Will take place in March 2014 between Runshaw College and our College at court in Lancaster. The competition is hosted by the Law Society of Lancaster University.
OUTLINE OF WHAT’S INVOLVED
What is mooting?
A moot is a legal debate in which students engage in the role-play of barristers arguing disputed points of law in a fictitious case based on a moot problem. A moot, unlike a mock trial, is concerned with the points of law raised in a hypothetical appeal to the Court of Appeal (or the Supreme Court). The moot judge acts as the appeal court and is also responsible for assessing the mooting skills of each mooter. Mooting (unlike client interviewing and negotiation) is assessed on an individual basis.
The purpose of mooting
Mooting is intended to be fun particularly if you are able to engage in the role-play involved. It also has a more serious purpose in developing self-confidence in public speaking (useful for a variety of careers) and other important skills. These include -
- making an oral presentation without an over-dependence on prepared materials
- researching and arguing particular points of law from a particular perspective
- analysing and applying relevant case-law in an informed and succinct manner
- thinking on your feet when dealing with questions relating to your arguments.
Students who win or do well in the internal competition will hopefully get the opportunity to take part in various national mooting competitions which are held each year.
Those hoping to do the Bar Professional Training Course will be expected to have engaged in mooting while at University and to have demonstrated some aptitude.
The allocation of roles
The moot problem sets out which court is involved, the factual background to the case and the specified grounds of appeal. Those taking part are told in advance for which side they have to argue and (for formal moots) in respect of which ground of appeal.
A simplified moot involves two opposing mooters who argue the grounds of appeal for one side or the other. The first submission is made by the mooter acting as counsel for the appellant, i.e. the party initiating the appeal. The opposing submission is made by the mooter acting as counsel for the respondent, i.e. the party responding to the appeal. This simplified format is used for the first two rounds of the internal competition.
A formal moot involves four mooters, i.e. two mooters for each side with each arguing a separate ground of appeal. Those arguing for or against the first ground of appeal are designated leading counsel (NB not senior counsel) and those arguing for or against the second ground of appeal are designated junior counsel. This format is used for the later stages of the internal competition. For the internal competition nothing turns on the differentiation in status - it is simply about the order of submissions which is as follows:
(1) leading counsel for appellant - first ground of appeal
(2) leading counsel for respondent - first ground of appeal
(3) junior counsel for appellant - second ground of appeal
(4) junior counsel for respondent - second ground of appeal.
Skeleton arguments and authorities
Prior to the moot those taking part have to provide a formal summary of their proposed lines of argument (skeleton arguments) plus the name and law-report reference of each case on which they intend to rely (list of authorities). These have to be made available by a specified deadline to (1) the opposing mooter and (2) the moot judge.
For the internal competition mooters are restricted to a maximum of 3 case-authorities to ensure that only pertinent key cases are selected and to avoid the danger of over-load.
How a moot is conducted
It is customary for mooters to sit with appellant’s counsel to the judge’s left and respondent’s counsel to the judge’s right. The judge then invites each mooter to make their oral submission in the specified order.
Mooters are expected to stand when making their submission or if the judge needs to address them about some other matter. The submission should be directed specifically to the judge rather than the opposing mooter. Opposing mooters are expected to sit quietly while others are making their submission. Generally speaking there is no right of interruption by an opposing mooter.
For the internal competition mooters are limited to their main submission. There is no provision for a right of reply by counsel/leading counsel for the appellant.
Time-limits for submissions
Mooters are expected to make an oral submission consisting of pertinent legal arguments backed up by any directly supportive case-authorities. In addition mooters should be able to answer basic questions by the moot judge on their legal arguments and case-authorities.
For the internal competition the specified time-limit for each submission is 15 minutes (or 20 minutes for the Final) to include time taken up in answering the judge’s questions. Where appropriate the judge may allow an extra 2/3 minutes to ensure overall fairness to each mooter. Mooters are advised when time is running out. The judge is entitled (if necessary) to curtail an over-lengthy submission.
The role of the moot judge
The judge pretends to be the Court of Appeal (or the Supreme Court) and has overall responsibility for the moot - listening to the submissions, looking at the case-law citations and asking questions to clarify or test the arguments put forward.
At the end of the moot the judge normally delivers a brief judgment on the points of law in dispute (if time constraints permit). This should reflect what is perceived to be the correct legal position. More importantly the judge also decides who has won the moot in terms of general advocacy techniques. This is determined in accordance with various judging criteria. Mooters may lose on the law (where they have the weaker case to argue) but still win the moot in terms of overall mooting ability.
ILLUSTRATIVE MOOT PROBLEM
Court of Appeal, Criminal Division
R v Walcott
Nutter was the leader of a gang of white youths who were suspected of being involved in a number of racially motivated assaults. A group of black youths, including Walcott, decided to take revenge for these assaults by attacking Nutter and his gang. In the course of the fight, Walcott, who was armed with a knife, stabbed Nutter in the stomach.
Although Nutter’s injury was serious, there is medical evidence that it would not have been life-threatening had he received prompt hospital treatment. Nutter, however, refused to go to hospital because he was disgusted at the prospect of being touched or attended to by black medical staff. He was also afraid that he would be recognised as the perpetrator of various serious assaults on black medical staff near the hospital. Nutter received no medical treatment and died of his injury.
Walcott is appealing against his conviction for the murder of Nutter. The grounds of appeal are confined to the reliance placed by the trial judge, Mr Justice Gravel, on the case of R v Blaue  1 WLR 1411 in directing the jury that the initial stab wound could be regarded as the operative cause of Nutter’s subsequent death notwithstanding Nutter’s refusal to seek medical treatment and his unmeritorious reasons for doing so.
The appeal is brought on the following grounds:
(1) The present case was distinguishable from Blaue which was concerned with situations where the victim had valid reasons for refusing particular medical treatment. Different considerations applied where there was an unreasonable refusal to seek any medical treatment and where the reasons for doing so were unconnected to the nature of the medical treatment
(2) It was open to a properly directed jury to conclude that Nutter had voluntarily chosen to bring about his death and that his conduct amounted to a new intervening cause which broke the chain of causation and relieved Walcott from criminal liability for Nutter’s death.
The appeal is opposed on the following grounds:
(1) The present case fell within the ruling in Blaue, which emphasised that the law is concerned with the consequences of the defendant’s wrongdoing (in inflicting an injury which would prove fatal) and not with the reasonableness or otherwise of the victim’s response to the injury.
(2) The judge was entitled to direct the jury that the injury inflicted by Walcott was the operative cause of Nutter’s death. It was not necessary for it be the sole cause. Even if Nutter’s refusal of medical treatment was a further contributory factor, this would not relieve Walcott from criminal liability for Nutter’s death.
TAKING PART IN THE COMPETITION
Organisation of law student competitions
There are three competitions, viz. mooting, client interviewing and negotiation. These are organised by elected student officers of the Law Students’ Society with the help of the staff representatives and other members of staff. The competitions are intended for undergraduate law (or other) students who are paid up members of the Law Students’ Society. If you have not paid up, you risk being excluded from the competitions.
There is a Competitions Noticeboard situated on Floor 4 of the Wilberforce Building at the east end near Room 417. There are also designated wall-racks near the Noticeboard for each of the three competitions. If you wish to become involved in any of the competitions, you’ll need to keep an eye on the Noticeboard as well as any email or phone messages.
Format of internal mooting competition
This is the oldest of the student competitions hence the inclusion of an extra round. It consists of Round 1 (approximately 64 mooters), Round 2 (approximately 32 mooters), the Quarter-Finals (16 mooters, 4 formal moots), the Semi-Finals (8 mooters, 2 formal moots) and the Final (4 mooters). The numbers for each round can be varied as/when necessary.
The various rounds of the competition (except the Final) take place on specified Wednesday afternoons as indicated in the Competitions Programme which is publicised separately. Wednesday afternoons are the only available times for all three competitions. Rounds 1 and 2 take place in Semester 1 and the remaining stages take place in Semester 2.
The various moots (except the Final) normally take place in small seminar rooms and those directly involved (mooters and judges) are usually the only people present.
The Final takes place on a specified evening and is normally judged by a local Barrister. Those who have taken part in the competition are expected to support the event and other students are encouraged to attend.
Who may enter the competition
Certain students are normally excluded from the internal mooting competition and may be asked to act as judges instead. These include (a) the student officers running the competition (b) students who reached the Final of a previous competition or are taking part in external mooting competitions (c) third/fourth year students who reached the Semi-Finals of a previous competition.
How to enter the competition
The arrangements for the competition are publicised on the via email. You need to collect and complete an entry form, giving your name and contact details etc., by the specified deadline.
Keeping to the arrangements
The organisation of mooting is very time-consuming and places heavy demands on the student officers. Their task is made more difficult if mooters don’t make themselves aware of the arrangements or start trying to alter them. Please avoid creating unnecessary difficulties.
If you are unable to take part in a moot, you must contact the student officers without delay so that they can try to make other arrangements. Late withdrawals or not turning up are likely to cause considerable difficulties given the need for an equal number of opposing mooters acting as appellants or respondents. Messing up the agreed arrangements is unfair to the student officers, other mooters and those who have given up their time to act as judges.
Skeleton arguments and authorities
You must comply with the procedure for disclosing your skeleton arguments and list of authorities. You will be told by one of the law teachers about specific deadlines.
Taking part in the moots
There is no formal requirement to wear a suit for the moots (except the Final) though students are expected to dress smartly. Many students find that this helps them to engage in the formal role-play.
The moot are judged by members of staff from lancaster University where practicable. The judging arrangements are organised by the student officers from lancaster University with the approval of the staff representative.
Mooters are judged individually on the basis of their overall mooting ability (rather than the legal result of the moot) in accordance with set criteria.
Publication of results
Decisions as to who qualifies for the next round of the competition are the responsibility of the staff representative acting in liaison with the various moot judges and the student officers. Judges will give basic judgment at the end of the moot and then detailed judgment will be sent to a Winstanley member of staff via email.
ADVICE ON PRIOR PREPARATION
Subject-areas of moot problems
The subject-areas covered in the internal competition moots are Contract Law, Law of Tort and Criminal Law.
The moot problems are intended to raise legal issues with which most students are already familiar. If you’re a first-year joint or part-time student, who does not do one of these subject-areas until a later year, you should seek advice from the staff representatives, student officers or other students as regards the subject-area and the books you need.
Identifying your role in the moot
The first named mooter acts for whichever party is the appellant in the appeal , i.e. the party who lost the case below and is seeking to appeal. Don’t get confused. This will be either the claimant (if the claim was dismissed) or the defendant (if the claim was upheld).
The second named mooter acts for the respondent in the appeal, i.e. the party who won the case below and is therefore opposing the appeal. Don’t get confused. This will be either the defendant (if the claim was dismissed) or the claimant (if the claim was upheld).
Doing the necessary legal research
You must ensure that your preparation for the moot is directed to putting forward those legal arguments and case-authorities which justify the points of law you’re arguing being decided in favour of the side for which you’re acting.
Your legal arguments and case-law authorities must also relate to the specific points of law raised by the grounds of appeal in the moot problem. You risk being penalised if your submission is seen to canvass other legal issues not covered by the moot problem.
You are not required to give the judge a potted summary of the law. You are entitled to assume that the judge is familiar with the general legal position and should concentrate on those specific aspects which advance the arguments you’re putting forward.
It is not possible for law reports to be made available for the moots. It’s acceptable therefore for you to make use of a contract case-book or other brief printed or photocopied materials as your case-law authorities. Don’t put yourself to unnecessary trouble and expense by overdoing your written materials. Just have available what you will actually need for reference purposes.
Preparation of outline plan – two aspects
Once you have researched and identified the legal points you have to argue, give careful thought to your outline plan. This involves setting out a brief summary of your main lines of legal argument and where/how your case-law authorities fit into this framework.
Your outline plan has two purposes. First it provides the basis of the information (skeleton arguments and list of authorities) which you have to disclose prior to the moot. Secondly, it should be used to summarise your proposed legal arguments when you start your submission and as a convenient source of reference throughout your submission.
The need for an oral submission
Some students like to write out their proposed submission. This is acceptable if it’s intended to help you remember what to say, but not if your purpose is to read out what you’ve written. You’re supposed to be making an oral submission.
Writing out your proposed submission has several disadvantages. It’s time-consuming and tedious and encourages an over-dependence on prepared materials. It is also not easy to refer to when having to answer particular questions and can lead to situations where you end up repeating matters which you’ve already dealt with in answering a question.
A far better approach is to concentrate on planning an oral submission with the assistance of your outline plan plus additional notes and other sources of information. When making additional notes, bear in mind that you’ll be standing to make your submission so set out your notes in a way which makes it easy for you to refer to them. As regards the use of case-authorities, make sure the information you need is set out in a way which makes it easy for you to find what you’re looking for.
Structuring your legal submission
Your submission needs to consist of pertinent lines of argument supported by case-law authorities. Make sure that your proposed legal arguments are conveniently structured so that they are easier to remember and easier to put across.
Keep your various legal arguments as simple/straightforward as possible. If you make them too complicated, you run the risk of becoming confused (particularly if you’re nervous).
Don’t try to cover too much ground. You have a maximum of 15 minutes in which to present all your arguments and case-authorities. You may also be interrupted and asked questions by the moot judge. If you end up having to rush things, you’re likely to get flustered.
Selection of appropriate case-authorities
Be selective and tactical in your choice of case-authorities. Concentrate on making use of those cases which directly support your legal arguments – how/why are they significant in resolving the disputed points of law in your favour?
You’re allowed a maximum of three case-authorities. Make sure you only choose the cases you really need. If you’ve a really strong case in your favour plug it for all it’s worth. Don’t waste time or get distracted by citing cases of only peripheral significance.
Avoid selecting cases which support your opponent’s arguments! You may sometimes need to distinguish unhelpful cases but that is very different from trying to rely on them directly.
Familiarity with your case-authorities
If you are going to cite a case, make sure you’re sufficiently familiar with the details - the facts (if relevant), the status of the court, the basis of the court’s decision, majority and dissenting judgments etc.
It’s a good idea to go through your case-authorities in advance. You need (if asked) to be able to summarise the facts and the decision succinctly and accurately (i.e. in no more than a minute or two). This is more difficult than it seems and can lead to precious time being spent on unnecessarily long elaborations.
Anticipating challenges to your arguments
Once you’ve sorted out your own arguments, give some thought to the opposing arguments and case-authorities which the other side might use. Think of ways in which you might counter these arguments or distinguish these cases. This should help you to deal with any awkward questions which might be asked by the judge.
Don’t let this distract you from your main task which is to argue the points of law from the perspective of the side for which you’re acting. Trying to counter the other side’s arguments is a technique which will come with practice/experience.
ADVICE ON SKELETON ARGUMENTS
When submitting your skeleton arguments and list of authorities, you must indicate your own name and your opponent’s name at the top of the page.
The outline of your skeleton arguments and case-authorities does not need to be long – maximum of one page – but it needs to be done in the correct style.
Format of Skeleton Arguments
The idea is that this should be done as if for an actual court (though more briefly). The example below assumes a civil case in the Court of Appeal where there are two grounds of appeal each involving two possible lines of argument.
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
Claimant’s name Appellant/Respondent
Defendant’s name Respondent/Appellant
Appellant’s/Respondent’s Skeleton Arguments
Ground 1 [of the grounds of appeal]
1. ………………………………….. (first legal argument for or against)
2.. ………………………………….. (second legal argument for or against)
Ground 2 [of the grounds of appeal]
1…………………………………….. (first legal argument for or against)
2. ……………………………………. (second legal argument for or against)
The Appellant/Respondent submits that the appeal be allowed/dismissed.
(Leading/Junior) Counsel: …….…………
Formulation of skeleton arguments
The purpose of your skeleton arguments is to provide a formal summary of your proposed legal submission for the benefit of (a) your mooting opponent and (b) the moot court.
The moot problem normally gives a clear indication of the main points of law which your legal submission must address. Your skeleton arguments need to expand on this by formulating, categorising and clarifying the separate lines of argument which you are putting forward for or against the grounds of appeal. The example (on the previous page) assumes that there are two lines of argument for or against each ground of appeal. This of course can be varied upwards or downwards. How many lines of argument you choose to use in relation to each ground of appeal depends on how the legal issues raised in the moot problem are presented and the complexity of the point of law in question.
Each line of argument has to be summarised in about three to six lines. You need to work at being as precise, clear and informative as possible (without going into unnecessary detail). You may also need to indicate whether your various lines of argument go hand in hand or whether they operate as separate alternatives. Sorting out how to do this properly will come with practice/experience.
List of authorities
This requires you to specify your case-authorities and provide an official law report reference. These should be included under the particular line of argument to which they relate. If the same case is used to support a further line of argument, this should be indicated. The precise number of case-authorities which you might need to use will vary. For the internal competition, you are limited to a maximum of three case-authorities in total.
Case-authorities should be set out in the usual manner using abbreviated ‘v’ (rather than versus/and/against) and abbreviated law-report references as follows -
Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company  1 QB 256
R v Blaue  1 WLR 1411
You may if you wish indicate the status of the court (e.g. the Court of Appeal). If you are relying on a particular judgment, you may indicate this (e.g. Bowen LJ’s judgment in Carlill (op cit). If you are relying on a dissenting judgment you should make this clear.
The golden rule is that abbreviations should be used in your list of case-authorities but should be avoided when you come to cite your case-authorities in the moot itself.
ADVICE ON MOOTING ETIQUETTE
Traditional courtesy to the moot judge
It is customary for mooters (and the audience) to stand when the judge enters the moot court and when the judge leaves to consider his/her judgment. This won’t normally apply to the early stages of the internal competition. It needs to be borne in mind as regards the Final and for national competition moots when Hull is the host institution..
Adoption of courtroom manner
Remember that you are expected to stand when making your oral submission and that your submission should be directed to the moot judge rather than the opposing mooter.
If there is a single moot judge you should address them as ‘my Lord/my Lady’. If there are two/more moot judges, you should use the plural term when addressing the court and the single term when dealing with a question from one of them.
It is customary for mooters to refer to the opposing mooter(s) as ‘my learned friend(s)’ and their mooting colleague (if any) as ‘my learned Junior (or Leader’).
How to begin your submission
It is customary for the first mooter to identify each of the mooters in the moot. Other mooters (if they have been identified) should begin by indicating their role in the moot without engaging in unnecessary repetition or inappropriate conversational greetings.
You need to explain the purpose of your submission in relation to the judgment being appealed and the grounds of appeal. This should be done briefly but formally (don’t just say you’re arguing for or against points one or two of the moot problem).
You should then use your outline plan (used for your skeleton arguments) to summarise your proposed lines of argument. Make sure the overall structure is clear before beginning your first line of argument.
The above procedure may seem ritualistic but it allows you to settle yourself and to set the scene before plunging into detailed legal arguments.
Keeping to your skeleton arguments and authorities
Generally speaking mooters are expected to adhere to their skeleton arguments and list of authorities when making their submission. If you wish to change your proposed arguments or to introduce a different case-authority, you must make this clear to the opposing mooter beforehand and obtain permission from the moot judge.
Avoidance of incorrect courtroom terminology
Avoid using inappropriate phrase such as “I feel/I think/I believe” or “in my opinion”. Suitable alternatives include plural terms such as “We submit, We suggest, In our submission” or “It is the appellant’s/respondent’s case that”.
Always use proper legal terminology and avoid any abbreviations or slang, (e.g. ‘grievous bodily harm’ not ‘GBH’). The non-use of abbreviations also applies when referring to the judge in the court below, e.g. Mr Justice Gravel (not Gravel J).
Citation of case authorities in moot
Although abbreviations should be used in your list of authorities, they should not be used when you come to cite the case in your submission.
Civil cases are cited with the parties’ full names, the use of the word ‘and’ (don’t say ‘v’) and the law report reference stated in full, e.g. “In the case of Carlill and the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company to be found in Volume 1 of the Queens Bench Reports for 1893 at page 256…”
Criminal cases are usually cited using the term ‘the Crown’ to avoid problems over Rex/Regina (don’t say ‘R’), the use of the word ‘against/and’ (don’t say ‘v’) and the law report reference stated in full, e.g. “In the case of the Crown against Blaue to be found in Volume 1 of the Weekly Law Reports for 1975 at page 1411..”
Appropriate use of case-authorities in moot
You must make clear how/why you are making use of the case. Are its facts significant? Is the decision significant? Is some particular aspect of the court’s judgment(s) significant? If you are relying on a particular judgment, you must indicate whether this was the court’s judgment, a majority judgment or a dissenting judgment.
When relying on a crucial passage from a judgment, you must refer the judge to where this can be found so that judge can read it. Keep an eye on the judge and proceed at an appropriate pace. Note again the need to refer to judges properly, e.g. the judgment of Lord Justice Bowen (not Bowen LJ) in the Carlill case.
Treating the judge in a respectful manner
Remember that your role as counsel is to assist the court. If the judge asks you to elaborate on a particular point or suggests that you move to your next point, you must comply with these instructions. Such instructions are intended to help you prioritise your best line of argument or to curtail an unnecessary/unhelpful line of argument.
If you wish to dispute a legal issue with the judge, always do so in an appropriate manner. If you’re sure of your ground, try to stick to your guns but don’t become rude/impertinent. If you’re on shaky ground, back off immediately and gracefully!
If the judge asks you a question to which you don’t know the answer, try to answer it as best you can or concede apologetically that you’re unable to assist the court!
How to conclude your submission
You must leave yourself enough time to sum up the arguments which you are finally putting forward. If the judge has got you to modify or drop some of your initial arguments, your final summary will need to take this into account.
You should end with a formal conclusion, e.g. “My Lord, unless I can be of any further assistance, that concludes my/our submission on behalf of the appellant/respondent”.