Law students interested in advancing their advocacy skills in a courtroom setting participate in Mock Trial Program. Through classroom, courtroom and competition experience, students are exposed to advanced evidence and trial techniques and participate in simulated trials.
Mock Trial Competition consists of two opposing teams, one representing the plaintiff or prosecution and the other the defense, simulating either a civil or a criminal trial. Competitors perform opening and closing statements, conduct direct and cross-examinations, and even play witnesses. Judges score each of these components, and the team with the highest score wins.
Mock Trial Competition, according to Jordan Joske, consists of two opposing teams, one representing the plaintiff or prosecution and the other the defense, simulating either a civil or a criminal trial. Competitors perform opening and closing statements, conduct direct and cross-examinations, and even play witnesses. Judges score each of these components. The team with the highest scores wins that tournament.
In the course of mock trial, the students learn the basic structure of a trial in relation to the following:
“Mock trials are an exciting way to teach trial court procedures and to develop a wide range of skills.” Kathy Bell
Moot court replicates the setting of an appellate court. Mock trials allow students to practice lower court trials. They represent a party, prepare a case for trial and try the case before judges, who are usually law professors, and even from judiciary.
Mock trial involves a whole trial. Moot court involves a single oral argument for each side, plus a rebuttal for the petitioner.
“The biggest difference between moot court and mock trial is the difference between appellate and trial advocacy. Unlike in mock trial, in moot court, one directs oral argument at a panel of appellate judges, usually local attorneys and judges. This type of advocacy requires a different structure, demeanor, and rhetorical style than trial advocacy.”
“Judges’ interruption of oral argument is the most significant difference between trial and appellate advocacy, at least in the competitive context. While no one can interrupt a mock trial opening or closing statement, judicial interruption and questioning is an essential part of oral argument. Moot court competitors prepare remarks, but they fully expect to be interrupted with questions. Judges might ask many questions or only a few.” Jordan Joske
The word ‘moot’ originates from a Scandinavian word meaning simply ‘a meeting’. The meetings concerned were assemblies of the members of a community for legislative or judicial purposes. The word was given its present meaning in the English Inns of Court in the sixteenth century where law students would present their legal arguments on a given set of factual circumstances (often resembling real cases) before senior lawyers or judges. Aspiring lawyers were thereby given experience in the art of persuasion.
In India, the mooting culture started when Bar Council of India organized the Bar Council of India Moot Court in the year 1981. In the new syllabus of LL. B. Program, Moot Court is one of the subjects at the final semester. The students have to present ‘hypothetical cases’ before the court. They are given external marks based upon their performance at the competition.
Mooting was earlier not taught as a subject by law colleges. However, now due to the scope and requirements of lawyers around the globe, ‘mooting’ as a subject has been introduced in the curriculum. Thus, the students are prepared and groomed as future lawyers before they complete their degree in law.
Mooting enables students:
Mooting is very important for a student who is going to become a lawyer. It will help him and make his work easy while appearing in a real courtroom. Mooting helps a law student understand procedures that are followed in a court to prepare him for his future.
“Moot Court is useful as it helps a student to become more comfortable with formulation of arguments and expressing them in front of judges.” Vrinda Bagaria
A moot court is arranged for giving practical training and guidance to the law students about the court practice. The students have to argue as if they are arguing before real court. The students are given marks by observing their performance. The main purpose of mooting is to assess the students about presenting the case preparing written submission and arguing a given case.
Moot court activities provide students with a number of rich learning opportunities. When students participate in moot courts, they learn how to work together to analyze complex text, synthesize facts, and prepare arguments. Students listen and respond to their peers as they take on the roles of petitioners, respondents and justices. These simulations of judicial processes prepare students learning different skills.
Moot court competitions provide an opportunity to build advocacy skills, sharpen public speaking skills, and engage in legal analysis in a variety of legal areas. The ability to speak persuasively is invaluable in legal careers. An excellent advocate is knowledgeable on the law, masterful in marshalling facts, skilled in the forensic arts, respectful of decorum, compliant with proper procedure, mindful of due process, fair with adversaries, devoted to the client, helpful to the court, honest with everyone, and, above all, persuasive.
The process of becoming an excellent advocate is a career-long journey that begins in law school’s first-year legal-writing course. Legal-writing courses, which culminate in writing a moot court brief and conducting a moot court oral argument, teach students to think like lawyers, a skill fundamental to practicing law and a necessary attribute to the good administration of justice. That thought process requires first-year law students to read and write in a new language, the language of the law. But instead of thinking, speaking, and writing in legal jargon, “thinking like a lawyer” involves understanding how asking and answering questions can address and resolve uncertainties and ambiguities. Moot court, the highlight of every first-year legal-writing course, teaches students advocacy skills to solve legal problems.Lebovits, Gewuerz, and Hunker1)
Moot court also teaches students professionalism and ethics, to apply law to fact and to structure legal arguments. By giving law students opportunities to improve their legal writing, legal research, and oral advocacy in a competitive environment that prepares students for a competitive world, the moot court experience is unlike any other in law school. It is, perhaps, the most important activity that fully develops the advocacy skill, every lawyer must possess. Most students find mooting to be intellectually rewarding and highly enjoyable.
Mooting skills boosts up the confidence level of the student. Mooting requires lots of hard work and efforts with lots of knowledge. The skill of presentation, logical response to the query of judges and art of advocacy are must in order to become a successful lawyer. The students are trained to present case with confidence and clarity before the judges.
Moot court also develops students’ ability to work collaboratively with their teammates and other lawyers. The moot court process requires students to work as a team in formulating legal arguments, an important talent for practicing attorneys. Competitors working in teams should work together to write a cohesive brief, even when teammates write different sections of the brief. Teammates should work together to review, edit, and revise the brief until it is the best piece of writing the team can collectively draft. By teaching that a team is only as good as its weakest link, moot court forces teammates to teach one another, and all participants learn as a result.Lebovits, Gewuerz, and Hunker.
Participants have to analyze a problem, research the relevant law, prepare written submissions, and present oral argument. Thus, participating in the moot court competitions helps the students in enhancing their researching skills.
According to Adam, the type of skills it is possible to develop through mooting include those related to:
As competitors research and write, they should ask themselves questions like “What elements of the case have been addressed by case law and statutes?” and “What legal theory can be crafted to address both the facts of the case and the relevant authorities?” Competitors should spend considerable time researching and drafting the brief, including multiple iterations and revisions, to ensure that their writing reflects their understanding of the issues presented and that their assertions are comprehensive and coherent. Writing a good brief saves time researching the legal issues during the oral-argument practice phase, and a brief must score well for the advocate’s team to win.2)
The students also prepare the Memorial (Written Submission) to be presented before the judges. Thus, the art of drafting a case can be developed among the students. The students are also taught how to address the judges at the court, what to speak in the court and what not to speak.
Sunil Sharma is an advocate; editor and compiler of legal commentaries, having authored more than 40 books.