I was lucky enough to be asked to judge a friendly moot between two great universities this weekend (RMIT and Victoria University).
I was really impressed by the teams, particularly since a lot of participants hadn't mooted before. They weren't intimidated by my constant questioning or by the fact we were underneath the canopy in the Old Magistrates' Court.
If you know your legal history that beautiful canopy was transported there from the Supreme Court. If the canopy could talk it would tell you about the time a certain Ned Kelly told Redmond Barry to go to hell shortly after Barry sentenced him to death. Kelly did see Barry in hell a week later. A carbuncle in Barry's neck burst so the Honourable Judge was on his way to meet his maker hand in hand with Kelly.
Watching the new mooters take to the floor made me want to jump down from the bench and give them some quick pointers before they begun. I couldn't then, but I can now. Here goes:
1 BE PREPARED. Seriously, be prepared. Not only will this mean you're ready for questions from the Bench but you'll be a lot less nervous.
2 Make sure your written submissions are clear, precise, accurate and easy to follow. You want your judge to focus on your advocacy not on trying to follow your citations on the page.
3 "Uhm is not an answer", don't say "Uhm", "ahhh", "err", it just makes it sound like you don't know what you're talking about or you're about to say something stupid or untrue. If you feel an Uhm coming on press the tip of your toungue to the roof of your mouth. It'll give you a moment to compose your thoughts and make you sound considered and precise.
4 This is court, not like, the shopping centre. Don't use the word "like", like this: "So your Honour, my client like, entered into this, like, contract...". It makes you sound young, inexperienced and unsure. Did your client enter into a contract or did she not? You can't like enter into a contract but you can enter into a contract.
5- You're a team, act like a team! Yes there's one person on their feet speaking but the rest of your team at the bar table should be following your argument, following cases, handing you summaries of a case if needed and so on. You're not just being judged on how well you speak, you're being judged on your collective advocacy skills.
6- It's ok to pause, take a moment, consult with your team and continue. It'll allow you to compose and reset, it also shows the Bench that you're working as a unit.
7- Call the judge the right thing! What jurisdiction you're in will determine what you call the judge. Don't forget to look it up and be consistent. Some judges don't mind being called "Madam" or "sir" but Your Honour is probably best- again, jurisdiction depending. Don't call them Your Majesty. I've seen that- it's embarrassing. The Victoria Law Foundation publishes a brilliant pamphlet titled: What Do I Call the Judge. look it up right now.
8- Be clear about your argument and don't be deviated from stressing your main points. Use this formula: begin your argument by telling the Bench what you're going to argue, argue it, then tell the Bench what you just argued. Your main points are important, make sure they get more than a passing mention!
9- Speak slowly and clearly. It's all well and good to have the best argument but useless if it can't be understood. Practice your public speaking and consider attending a course to sharpen your skills. As part of your preparation have the last 45 seconds of your final submission and conclusion highlighted and ready to go. This way, if you get a final one minute warning you can wrap up what you're saying and move on to your final submission and not go over time. You'll end by affirming your case not in a tangle because you ran out of time.
10- While you're mooting, that very room you are in whether it's a spare classroom or an actual courtroom is for all intents and purposes a court in session. All normal rules of court are to be followed in the way you dress, behave, speak, and not speak! Obviously, don't use your phone, obviously.
I'd love to hear from you! If you've got any useful tips for mooting let me know in the comments!