In preparing for the moot competition, students should:
- Analyse the facts of the case – what has happened?
- Determine what legal rules apply to these facts – i.e. which provisions of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) applies? What elements are required for the crime of murder to be proven?
- Find cases with facts similar to those of the moot problem – what decision did the Judge come to in those cases?
Students can write out their arguments and have written notes to which they refer when they are mooting. Each student should speak for approximately ten minutes.
What is mooting?
Mooting is a mock court case where competitors are barristers who need to win their case using legal arguments. Students are given a legal problem which they are required to analyse and then students must prepare and present submissions to the Judge in an attempt to persuade the Judge that their legal argument is better than their opponents'.
In a criminal moot court case, each team acts for either the prosecution or defence. The prosecution aims to convince the Judge that the accused did commit the crime, whereas the defence endeavours to persuade the Judge that the accused did not commit the crime (i.e. the elements of the offence have/have not been established). During the moot court hearing, each team is given 20 minutes to present their arguments, and during that time the Judge may ask the speaker questions about the relevant legal rules or any relevant cases.
How it works
The Team; Each team consists of four students. Two students present arguments during the moot court hearing - one person acts as senior counsel (and they speak first) and the other as junior counsel (and they speak second). The other two members of the team act as instructing solicitors and they do not address the court.
The Moot Court; The Moot Court is set up just like a real court hearing. The Judge sits at the front of the Court and each time a student speaks to the Judge, they must stand up and address the Judge as 'Your Honour'. When facing the Judge, the team for the prosecution sits on the left-hand side of the Court, and the team for the defence sits on the right-hand side.
Tips for students
- Prepare your submissions - it is a good idea to write out your submissions beforehand (similar to a speech) so that you know what you want to talk about with the Judge during the moot. Have a clear introduction and conclusion so that the Judge can easily follow your arguments. You should also consider what the opposing counsel might argue for their case, and in your submission outline reasons why your opposing counsel's argument is weak (and why yours is better). The Senior Counsel of each team should prepare a brief introduction about your team's case, and the Junior Counsel should provide a concise conclusion.
- Practice, practice, practice - as they say, practice makes perfect. The more you practice your submissions, the better and more confident you will be when the time comes to present them before the Judge. When practicing with team members, ask each other questions so that you can rehearse how you will respond if the Judge asks you similar questions during the moot hearing!
- Work as a team - even though you present your own arguments, you are still part of a team so make use of your team members. Prepare your arguments and discuss the case together. If during the competition you are asked a question by the Judge and you do not know the answer, instead of saying that you don't know, you can say 'Your Honour, may I have a moment to consult with my Junior/Senior counsel?' If the Judge allows you to do this, you can see if your team member knows the answer.
- Know the correct terminology and court etiquette - in the moot court, you must address the Judge and the opposing counsel (i.e. the team that you are competing against) the same way you would address them in a real courtroom. The Judge is to be addressed as 'Your Honour' and if you are talking about a Judge in another case, you must refer to that Judge as 'His Honour' or 'Her Honour'. You also should refer to a member of the opposing team as 'My Learned Friend'. You must also act in the same way as you would in a courtroom. That means you must stand when the Judge enters the room and make sure the Judge addresses you first before you speak. You also need to stand up when you are presenting your arguments.
- Keep an eye on time - you'll have ten minutes each to make your submissions, so if you think you might run out of time, choose the strongest arguments and say them first. During the competition, if you do think you will run out of time, simply ask the Judge if you could have an extra minute to summarise your submissions and conclude your case.