Observations from Inner Temple Moot
Over the past weekend, Natalie and myself had the pleasure and privilege of taking part in the intervarsity Inner Temple Moot. The competition pitted 21 teams of Bar students and LLB students against one another.
The case we were presented with was a complex one, dealing with an area of law that is still very much in development. It dealt with an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom over the admissibility of evidence obtained illegally. Asides from its inherent difficulty, the problem was remarkably fair, as not even Bar students are often taught rules of evidence. This is an area of law that many young Barristers and Solicitors with leave to appear learn ‘under fire’ and in the moment.
The feedback we got from the Judges is highly useful and remarkably practical. Here’s some observations the pair of us want to pass on to all of you, especially those of you with your mooting module ahead of you:
1. Dispense with formalities at the earliest possible opportunity: I can imagine Zoe frowning as she reads this part, but we cannot stress this enough. It was a universal piece of feedback provided to candidates and mooters throughout the day. Remember: You are operating on borrowed time for your submissions and any moment not spent convincing the judges is a moment wasted. The judges showed repeated exasperation at the ‘if I mays’ and ‘if it please the lords.’ In short: Don’t ask. Tell. Be firm, not deferential. Avoid longwinded citations: tell the Judges as you begin your submissions that you are dispensing with full citations in the interests of time. The judges can, after all, read the full citation from your bundle. Crack on!
2. Get ready to throw your entire plan out the window: The best moots are still, at best, utter chaos. Rules are often ambiguous or just plain different to what the Judges and Clerks expect the day of the moot. You will often have a different interpretation of them from the team opposite you. Meet them halfway: it can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. Natalie and I were told one round (despite being told the opposite the round previous) that we were only allowed 3 authorities – this sent the opposite team into a mild panic. We could have done the same, but instead took it as a golden opportunity to ‘trim the fat’ and drop what we felt was our weakest submissions. As a result, our submissions were quick, forceful, and convincing. In short: Things go wrong, just like in a real court. Don’t panic.
3. Think outside the box: This sounds cliché but might more sense with an example. In this moot, we were before the Supreme Court. Frankly speaking, the authorities in support of the Appellant were of little use, and it seemed like the case law overwhelmingly supported the Respondents. However, we were in front of the Supreme Court. The best Appellants challenged the court to correct what they viewed as a body of erroneous law, inviting the Court to exercise its law-making authorities. In short: Be creative and don’t always be hidebound to authority.
4. Be brave: If a Judge is wrong, let them know. Do not let them bombard you with inane questions; your time for submissions is limited and should never be wasted. If a Justice is making elliptical (often deliberately) or openly mistaken points, firmly and respectfully tell them why
and inform them you are going to continue. Throughout the day, Judges deliberately cited superseded law in an attempt to catch mooters off guard. They applauded counsels who wasted no time in correcting the course. Being firm is possible without breaking etiquette.
5. Bring a notepad: Even if there is no right of reply, bring a scratch pad. Remember: Senior respondents always get a chance to briefly address their opponent’s arguments, don’t waste the opportunity. Listen carefully to their submissions, follow along with them in their bundles, and highlight mistakes and slip ups they make. Then, before you start your own submissions, address their errors. We scored significant points for responding to a serious misreading of a narrow statutory provision by the opposing team. It took less than thirty seconds to make the point, and probably served me better than any of my pre-prepared submissions. It also shows you are attentive and able to think on your feet.
By: Natalie Relton & Victor Rinaldi