Mooting is, no doubt, one of the most challenging and exhilarating activities for a law student, that you should not miss out on. We all know the significance of mooting in terms of bettering oral, research, drafting, and organizational skills. It boosts your knowledge in the researched subject of law and helps with inner confidence. (Read: How Does Mooting Shape Your Personality?)
But the one aspect regarding mooting that students often miss out on is the importance of manners and etiquette involved. Most of the eminent moot court competitions take moot etiquettes very seriously and mistakes done are not overlooked. Students get the chance to develop this skill mostly by participating in such activities, something they will constantly need in their future. So, let us dive into all the key tips and pointers you will require to master your mooting etiquettes.
Some General Tips to Start With
Below are a few preparational tips to keep in mind before the session starts.
- Make sure to be calm, collected, and respectful with a good presence of mind.
- Drink some water if you’re panicked. When on the podium, do not forget to ask the judges’ permission to start with your submissions.
- Be sure to wear the proper uniform as prescribed in the rules and regulations of the organising committee of the moot.
- Read the rules of the competition multiple times carefully.
- Do not take up a lot of documents to the podium, it will look unprofessional on your part.
- Figure out beforehand if passing chits, to your co-speaker and/or researcher, are allowed or not.
Etiquettes for Oral Rounds
Now focusing specifically on the oral rounds during the session, make sure to follow the given points as a speaker:
- Make sure you respectfully refer to Judges as either of these terms – “Your Honor”/” Your Excellency”/” Your Lordship”.
- If the bench consists of a female member, make sure you either ask if you can refer to the bench collectively as “Your Lordships” or not. In case you are addressing a particular question of the female judge, do not call her “Your Lordship” in the flow. Instead, consciously use the phrase “Your Ladyship”
- Acknowledge the judge’s sayings by responding “Indeed Your Lordship”/” Much Obliged”.
- If you have a pen/pencil with you, do not keep it in your hand and wave it while speaking. It can be very distracting for the judge.
- Limit physical movements like shifting from one foot to another and excessive hand gestures as much as possible. Keeping hands on each side might help to prevent this.
- Take a slow and steady conversational approach rather than an aggressive and confrontational one. You need to engage and not just narrate.
- Whenever judges interrupt with questions, answer fully to the best of your ability and don’t delay it by telling you will get back to that question later.
- Always prioritize the Judges’ lead even if he/she defers from your track.
- You can ask a judge to explain or clarify any inquiry if you are confused or have not understood anything.
- Taking time to answer or asking for a particular question of the judge is better than answering wrong.
- If you make a mistake, then calmly clarify your point without getting flustered in front of the judge, and never try to cover it up.
- You can respectfully disagree when you are capable of backing up your position with a well-reasoned argument.
- Internalize the substance rather than memorizing the words and be prepared for every possible question that could be thrown your way. For this, try to first make arguments from the opposite side and then try to find counter and reasoned arguments to the same.
- It is preferable to give a brief pause while answering a question. It will also help you formulate the answer in your head.
- Always be deferential to the Court, no matter what the situation is.
- Take permission from the judge before moving to the next issue or point.
- When you are done or have run out of time, thank the Court before sitting down.
- In case you need an extension of time or you see that a lot of issues are yet to be addressed, calmly address this concern to the Court and ask for permission in lieu of the same.
- Memorize your introduction and the last paragraph by heart, especially the prayer.
- Maintain eye-contact with the court while speaking without stuttering.
How should you communicate with the Judges?
Now to execute the aforementioned pointers it is important to use the phrases given below while communicating:
- While beginning the session – “May it please the Court, my name is ________ and I appear on behalf of ______. My submission will address…”
- While presenting arguments, avoid saying ‘we argue’ or ‘it is our argument’.
- While clarifying the judges’ statement – “I would be obliged if the Court would clarify the question.”
- For requesting the judge to repeat – “I’m afraid I didn’t quite understand the Court’s concern.”
- If the time is up, you can ask the Court if you may finish by saying, “Your Honors, may I briefly conclude?” If the Court says, “Yes,” then finish. Remember to not use this opportunity and misuse it to bring new arguments.
- If a judge asks a “yes” or “no” question, answer first with “yes” or “no”, and then go on with your elaboration. For example, reply with, “Yes, Your Honor, in fact …,” or “No, Your Honor, rather ….”
- When you are politely disagreeing with the court – “I accept the Court’s point, however, it is my submission that…” [or] “I would submit that…”
- In case, the bench asks a question, that you do not know the answer to, rather than bluffing, politely say, “the counsel pleads ignorance.” However, this leaves a negative impression and must be used as a last resort.
- During rebuttals and sub-rebuttals – ‘I will show that’. . . rather than ‘I will argue that . . . ‘
- During rebuttals and sub-rebuttals – ‘My opponent’s (or opposing counsel’s or learned friend’s) argument overlooks that . . .”
- While pleading or requesting the judge – ‘The court should’ . . .rather than ‘the court must . . .’
- For final submission: ‘we submit’, ‘it is our submission’, or ‘it is submitted’.
- & while concluding your statements – “That concludes my submission. May I be of any further assistance to the Court?”
or “Unless the Court has any further questions, that concludes my submission (on behalf of) …”
- While submitting your arguments or referring to a previous argument – ‘In my respectful submission . . .’
Most Common Mistakes to Avoid
After learning about the rules and phrases grouped as the moot etiquette, you must avoid the following mistakes:
- Do not show your nerves. The judges’ perception of you can get affected by your anxiousness so just follow the old saying – fake it till you make it.
- Avoid being a little too formal during your argument deliveries and rather try to have a conversation about it.
- Having said that, try not to use phrases like “I think”. “I believe”, “I feel”.
- Never interrupt or speak over a judge, if by chance you do then stop talking immediately.
- Never rush into answering a question without thinking it through fearing two seconds of silence.
- There will also be the possibility that you will try to cover up your inadequacies by bluffing, which should be strictly avoided too.
- The worst thing to do is not listening carefully to the questions of judges and failing to address the concerns raised. Give your full attention there.
- Remember not to get angry, aggressive, or walk out of the courtroom no matter what happens or how embarrassed you get.
- Do not deviate from the plan formulated. But that does not mean you should not cater to the judge. Try to answer in such a way that makes sense as well as brings you back to your plan, if distracted.
We hope at this point the matter of moot etiquette is relatively demystified and you have got an idea of how to go about your delivery in the courtrooms while ensuring your adherence to the expected mannerisms. So, practice hard, gain confidence, and ace your moot!
About the Author: Madhuja Chatterjee, a 1st year Student from the School of Law, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore. She has always been young at heart, curious and eager to explore the fascinating subject of Content Writing.