Organising a mooting competition

  • Beware : the pitfalls
  • What you will need
  • Preparation in advance
  • Preparation nearer the time
  • Starting the moot
  • After the moot
  • A competition - the timing

  • Getting sponsorship

  • Mooting officers forum

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  • Beware : the pitfalls

    Being a moot competition organiser is a thankless task. The organiser is faced with a large amount of work, most of which is behind the scenes, and the amount of effort involved is often not appreciated by either the mooters, or the judges.

    The biggest problem for the organiser is the people. People who fail to respond to messages, do not turn up on time, or drop out at the last minute are the scourge of all mooting competitions, but there is little that can be done about it. Finding people who are willing to judge moots is often a nightmarish problem, and there are many mooting organisers who will have spent the hours before a moot running frantically around in the search of volunteers.

    But it isn't all bad. Watching mooters perform in a competition you arranged can be very rewarding. Watching others is also useful to improve your own mooting skills. And, of course, it is great for developing those 'life skills' which are deemed so valuable when applying for jobs.

    What you will need

    • Willing mooters - are there sufficient interested people to make your effort worthwhile?
    • Ideally, at least two organisers. One to comfort the other in the hard times to come!
    • A lot of patience.
    • Availability of several rooms to moot in.
    • Access to the standard selection of law reports, and permission to either remove or photocopy them.
    • Finance for the photocopying / printing which will be required (both forms and law reports).
    Other non-essentials which you might consider are: a lectern, a stop watch, mooting gowns, refreshment for judges, posters to advertise the moot, 'time's up' signs.

    If you have the funds (some universities have mooting budgets), a buffet after the final of the internal mooting competition tends to go down well, as does some sort of mooting trophy or shield. Prize money for the winners is a great incentive - sponsorship of the mooting competition is something to consider.

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    Preparation in Advance

    • Decide on your rules

      A typical set of mooting rules is to be found in the Observer Book of Moots, but organisers may choose to vary these to suit their own circumstances. The final set of rules should be typed, preferably desktop published. Certain points in the rules should always be highlighted:

      • The deadline for the moot citations, which should be made clear from the very start
      • The timings for the speeches, and the penalties for exceeding them
      • That the winner of the legal case does not necessarily win the moot, and how the winner of the moot is to be decided
      An example set of rules is available here.

    • Make a citation sheet

      Mooters will need to let both you and the other side know of their cases and statutes prior to the moot, and the citation sheet provides a convenient means of doing this. You can either use the sheet provided here, or design your own.

    • Produce other documentation

      Other possible documentation includes a help sheet/beginners guide, welcoming letters, forms for indicating time, room and problem, documentation for the judges (an example of which is provided here) and sheets for you to conveniently allocate judges to rooms and problems to people.

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    Preparation Nearer the Time

    • Find judges

      It is often thought that the ideal people to judge moots are lecturers in the subject of the moot, but often law lecturers judge a moot better if they are not up to speed with the subject matter - they will then rely more on the skills of the mooters to help them on the law.

      Practitioners can also be good moot judges, as can seminar tutors, postgraduates, and even experienced undergraduates. The key factor is that they are made to appreciate exactly what they are required to do before the moot takes place.

      Judges must have a knowledge of how the appellate courts work, and the rules of precedent in the UK. They should also be given a copy of the moot problem in advance.

      It is often easiest to make the judge aware of the requirements of mooting via some sort of documentation, but experience shows that people do not read what they are given. The key points are that the moot is judged on criteria involving clarity of presentation and legal argument, rather than on the success of the appeal in question. The judge should be told to make some intervention, as it is only through questioning that the calibre of the mooters can thoroughly be tested. However, two or three questions per speech is usually sufficient. Any more could be very intimidating, particularly for a novice mooter.

      Book the judges as far in advance as possible. You will usually find that in the case of lecturers, several days or even several weeks notice will ideally be required. However, the opposite may sometimes apply, with staff who urge you to ask them nearer the time. You will begin to see the problems with judges...

    • The Authorities

      Mooters will need to have access to their authorities when making their arguments to 'the court', as will the judge who is required to adjudicate based on them. Photocopies will generally suffice for the advocates, but it is useful, for the atmosphere if nothing else, if the judge can have access to original reports and articles.

      The first possible source of these is a law department, or departmental library. The main college/university library may also be able to help. Staff may be reluctant to allow the reports (each volume of which is worth several hundred pounds) out of their sight, but they may be persuaded. Try to get law school staff to assist you in any persuasion.

      You will need to collect the books on the day of the moot so as not to deprive other students from them for too long. Take a few friends with you - law books are VERY heavy! Always check your mooters' citations as you collect the books. It will cause embarrassment both for you and for them if the citation turns out to be incorrect at a later stage. It is also useful for the judge if you can mark the relevant page, perhaps with a slip of paper naming the case found in that report.

      Put the books in a row in front of the judge's seat, or if you will be using a court clerk, within his/her easy reach.

    • The Room

      A small amount of preparation may be required in the room to be used for the moot. It creates more of a courtroom atmosphere if the desks are angled in such a way that the counsel will face the judge. A lectern is also sometimes useful for advocates to put their speeches on, and to hide behind!

    • Timing

      You will need to find someone to do the timing. They will need a stopwatch (your local sports centre or physical education department may have one for loan), and also may like to use sheets of paper with 'time left x' written on them to show the mooters. Experience has shown that holding these up interrupts the mooter less than a vocal warning, but allows them to see how long they have left.

    • Court Clerk

      If you have a number of willing volunteers, a court clerk can move the lectern around, and pass the judge authorities as required, as well as passing any other documents which need to be moved around.

    • Miscellaneous Other Points

      The professional moot organiser will always provide the judge with some sort of liquid refreshment e.g. Evian and glass. Water is always available to both judge and advocates in a real courtroom! Gowns for the mooters are also good to have if any are available, although some mooters may find them awkward to wear. Lecturers are often willing to lend their gowns out for a moot.

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    Starting the Moot

    You may like to remind the mooters and the judge of some of the rules, particularly the time constraints. Let them know how you propose to indicate that time is up, and if a clerk is used, agree with the judge how the books will be passed to him/her.

    Then you can simply ask the lead counsel for the appellants to introduce the teams and begin the moot whenever he/she is ready. Then you can sit back and relax!

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    After the Moot

    Make sure the judge has given a full decision to the satisfaction of both teams, and be sure to thank the judge. You may also like to make observations of your own on the quality of the mooting, either before the whole court, or to individuals. Tactfully point out any obvious flaws which the judge has failed to mention.

    Note down the winners names, and in the case of a competition, begin preparing for round two!

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    A Competition - The Timing

    It is sensible to allow the mooters the maximum time of a week between receipt of the problem and the moot itself. They may well request longer, but a week is quite sufficient time, and any extra will just mean that preparation occurs later on in the time allotted.

    It is also unwise to leave time between the rounds - the competition will begin to loose momentum. If you have an agreed weekly time for mooting (e.g. Wednesday afternoon) then the rounds of the competition should sensibly be carried out at that time on a weekly basis.

    This means that on the moots finishing on a Wednesday afternoon, for example, the moot officers must quickly make the draw for the next round, select problems, rooms and find judges, and give the mooters their materials on the Thursday at the latest.

    Citations are due in on a Monday at 5 pm, and the mooting officers must check that they have been delivered okay. If citations are late the moot may be permitted to proceed, but a case may legitimately be made for disqualification, as this will inconvenience the opposite team's preparation.

    The moot officers should also deliver the problems to the moot judges in advance, preferably several days in advance, as well as checking that the judge is happy with the problem and procedure.

    On the morning of the moots, the mooting officers should begin preparing their authorities, and the books should be ready to take from the library/store at least an hour before the moot is due to begin. This allows time to prepare the rooms for the mooters once lectures have finished in them.

    Books and materials safely delivered, the moot can begin, and the cycle repeats itself again. Being a mooting officer is hard work - but think of all the inspired mooters who will go on to be the next Michael Mansfield QC!

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    See also: Getting sponsorship for a mooting competition

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