Even after rehearsing all the issues multiple times and practising all the arguments in and out, we remain unprepared for the D-Day as we can never be certain about what’s to come. Although uncertainty is a given, to make the best out of moot court performance and to perform well, we can prepare better. The thrill of moot court competitions are the bouncers and you need to be prepared to tackle those bouncers. Here are a few tips that would help you create a good impression on the judges.
Few General Tips
- Absorb all the facts of the case – Yes, it is an overrated piece of advice, but we are suggesting this for a reason. Even after going through the moot proposition hundreds of times, you can still get tense when suddenly questioned on it. Make a small fact sheet for your reference.
- Work on a few anticipated questions – Work on your analysis from multiple angles to find out the loopholes and reconcile the flaws accordingly. Listen carefully to all your opponent’s arguments too in search of any wrong analysis.
- Follow a plan with all the key points – Expect the panel to try and distract you to get you off the point that you are trying to stick to and prove. It would be a good idea to script, bolden, or colour the different types of pointers. However, when the judges throw you off from your pointers, do not panic. (see: 10 Proven Ways To Overcome Nervousness And Become A Better Public Speaker.) Both the judges and you have equal say in deciding the flow of the arguments. To see how to tackle such questions, refer: Oral Rounds for Moot Court Competitions | How to prepare for them?
- Get quality sleep the night before – Okay, we really are not theoretical about this one. Continuously arguing before a panel can be exhausting and draining, and it demands every ounce of your energy and attention. Having a good night’s sleep before your round is not a myth because it not only gets you a fresh state of mind but even a fresh perspective to your moot proposition. But do see what are the other myths regarding mooting: Myths on Mooting | A Trapped Web
Now moving on to all the different types of questions that you could face during the competition is discussed in the coming sections.
- Simple Factual Questions – Straightforward but unexpected
These are the questions that are the easiest to answer- you just need to have a good grip on the facts of the case. A few examples are given below:
- What was the year of the case you just cited?
- What was the holding of the case you just cited?
- Can you point to your factum for the information about the academic research paper you just cited?
- What were the facts of the case you just cited?
- What was the court level of the case you just cited?
- Give five important facts in favour of your client.
- Give five important facts going against your client. (well, this one is tricky. You need to point out such facts which even though are against your client but are not a direct consequence of your client’s conduct or negligence. This will help you tackle the cross-questions stemming from this by the judges.)
If you know the answer, well and good. However, if you do not know it, then you could say, “Your Lordship, I am unable to assist the court with the facts of the case at this time, but I would like to direct the court as to why I raised the case. Case XYZ is important because…” or you could ask the court permission to answer that question later, but do get back to it later then.
- The Twisted Clarification Seeking Question – Reiteration by the Judges to Mislead You
It is mainly a summary or reiteration by the judges but often goes contrary to the approach taken. Treat all questions, even those that appear to be adversarial, simply as clarification questions. It would be better to stop thinking about the judges as they are most likely trying to trick you. Try starting with a simple “Yes, No, or Indeed” answer. Some suggested follow-ups are provided below:
- Question: Counsel, the respondents have argued that the best way to address the violation of Article 14 is to consider…do you agree?
- Answer: Yes, Your Lordship, the Petitioner agrees with the Respondent that the correct test for the violation of Article 14 is…however, the Respondent does not support the conclusion that the violation has indeed occurred.
- Question: Counsel, do you agree that the test should only have two main components?
- Answer: No, Your Lordship, we submit that three elements of the test for section 24(2) are necessary to properly determine if evidence should be excluded.
- Question: Counsel, isn’t it true that the office only completed 5 out of 10 training courses?
- Answer: Indeed, Your Lordship, that is correct, however, our position is that completion of 5 courses gives the officer sufficient minimum training.
- Question: Counsel, the Respondents have devalued the case of x that you used for your initial argument, do you agree with their reasoning?
- Answer: No, Your Lordship, the Respondent ignored the crucial point x while analyzing the cited case, which makes their reasoning faulty.
Try to begin with the short answer conclusion. Remember to not use the first person while addressing the bench.
- The Assisting Question – Requires a “Yes, Your Lordship”
This is more of a supportive question that judges usually follow up with a leading question to confuse the students. They can go as follows:
- Question: Counsel, am I correct in saying that, based on points X, B, and C, your position is that the search and seizure of evidence were appropriate?
- Answer: No, Your Lordship, it is the appellant’s position that when you consider B, C, and D, in totality, the search and seizure was appropriate. Factor X does not factor into this analysis.
- Follow-up Question: So, counsel, then we should not consider Factor X, and as per your co-counsel’s submission, we should not consider section Y, as relevant to this case. Is that correct?
- Answer: Indeed, Your Lordship, that is correct. Neither X nor Y should be considered by the court as relevant to the test.
Try and distinguish between the two types by calmly questioning whether the judge correctly or incorrectly is summarizing your position and in which direction your answer could lead you. Figuring out the latter will help you get out of potential bogs which the judges are carefully tricking you into.
Small things like saying “Yes” instead of “Yeah” make a huge difference in a moot. For more refer to Mooting Etiquettes and Mannerisms Every Mooter Should be Aware of.
- The Alternate Scenario Question – The Scary One
This is the daunting question where it is important to calm your mind enough and think whether this question will aid you or lead you down the “garden path”. It can play out like this:
- Counsel, suppose a larger quantity of marijuana was found in the accused car?
- Answer: Your Lordship, a change in fact like that would have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, the Appellant submits that regardless of the number of drugs seized, a Section 8 violation still occurred.
- Counsel, what if the woman had also bought a gun for the undercover officer posing as a hitman instead of just contacting him?
- Answer: The Respondent submits that the purchase of a gun might be further evidence of a crime, but would have to be assessed in the context of the factors of that case. In this case, however, we can see the commission of the officer is sufficient to demonstrate the intention to contract for murder.
- Counsel, what if the accused expressed more scepticism about having Ms Bond drive him home after the party?
- Answers: Your Lordship, in cases like X, we see that additional scepticism factors into the analysis, and the trial judge would have to consider that.
- Counsel, you argue that separating the mother and baby imposes psychological harm to both individuals. But we separate mother animals and baby animals all the time.
- Answers: Your Lordship, the treatment of animals and humans are distinct. I cannot comment on practices with animals. I would point out, however, that the psychological harm to mothers and children has been documented in psychological studies. If I can turn you to page 3 of the Appellant factum, to the study by…
First, consider the hypothetical situation, defer it if needed, and then come back to your initial point. The fact that you could go the entire merry-go-round and still make your point would leave a good impression on the bench. If you are still unsure then it would be safe to use the moot court terminology such as “each case is assessed on a case-by-case basis, and I am unable to speculate on it.” (For more, see: Moot Court Terminologies Useful for Every New Mooter)
- The Lengthy Convoluted Question – The On-the-way Ones
When judges formulate their questions while speaking, sometimes they don’t even end up as a question and could get messy to interpret for the students. These types of situations mostly require clarification as you may be unable to derive the actual question and are at risk of wasting the bench’s time.
An example to help you decipher this type would be:
- Counsel, I’m not sure I agree with your submissions regarding the accused’s concrete and reliable plan. He decided to drive his car to a party, then he talked to someone about driving him and then changed his mind. A reliable plan should be more concrete than that? And then he didn’t ask his friend to drive when they left the party.
To clarify, you can break it down and clarify the following points:
- Your Lordship, could you please repeat your question?
- Your Lordship, would I be correct in saying the bench seeks clarity on the Appellant’s position concerning the reliability of the plan?
So don’t be afraid to ask for such clarifications. (But if you still are, see: 10 Proven Ways To Overcome Nervousness And Become A Better Public Speaker) It is better to clarify and answer correctly rather than answering wrong! (Pro tip: you can even ask for such clarifications if you have understood the question perfectly to get yourself a 2-3 second buffer time and structure your answer in your mind.)
- The Manifold Question – The Group Attack
In this case, two scenarios could arise – One, the judge can end up asking multiple questions, or two, multiple judges can pick up on each other’s questions and present a combined query. Here is an example to grasp such a scenario:
- Counsel, wasn’t the accused so drunk by that point that he couldn’t have made a reliable and concrete plan? And wasn’t that plan diminished because the accused proceeded to sit in front of his car instead of connecting with his designated driver?
- Counsel, I have two questions – first, who is responsible for implementing the mother-child program in prisons, and second, why should we be considering the mother-child program when there is no comparable father-child program?
Best to break up the answer. Can write them down to maintain clarity.
- Your lordship, if I may answer your question in three parts: First…second…
When the judges are asking multiple questions, ask your teammates who are sitting beside you to note them down and pass them on to you. In this way, you do not need to ask the judges to repeat their question if you end up forgetting. (See: How to work with a Moot Team? To know more such tips and Qualities of a Good Researcher | A Complete Guide! in case you are the researcher, sitting on the side bench yourself!)
Further, structuring your answers in prongs like these could fetch you more marks because it reflects that you have clarity and you are answering all the questions posed to you.
Now we have reached the end, and hopefully, you have gained some much-needed clarity on what you might be questioned on and how you should go about that question accordingly by deciphering its type.
All the best with your coming endeavours!
About the Author: Anjali Baskar is from the School of Law, Christ University. Her interests in law include Public Policy, ADR/ODR, Criminal Law, IPR/Entertainment Law, etc.
About the Editor: Palak Aggarwal is from National Law University, Odisha. She is interested in Arbitration Law, Intellectual Property Law, Competition Law and Corporate Law.