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What happens in a moot court?

The tell-tale dun-dun proceeding every episode of Law and Order, the ‘you can’t handle the truth’ scene from A Few Good Men and Elle Wood’s quintessential court-winning moment at the end of Legally Blonde.  

Each of these iconic legal dramadies allow us to peek behind the ‘stand’ and see what it takes for lawyers to get their case across the line. 

For most, this is as close as we’ll get to a thrilling courtroom experience. For law students, however, the immersive activity known as ‘mooting’ is the ultimate trial by fire.  

But what exactly is mooting? 

Dr. David Tan from Deakin University’s law department describes it as a simulated hearing where students take on the roles of lawyers, presenting legal arguments to judges or arbitrators. 

We spoke to Dr David Tan from Deakin’s Law Department to understand what mooting is and why it’s such an integral activity for students to participate in. 

Moot hearings aren’t scripted 

Just because a moot is a simulated hearing, it doesn’t mean it’s scripted. Students must develop their own arguments and be prepared to tackle counter arguments in real-time. 

‘Students are given difficult legal problems which they need to prepare their own arguments for, and just like in real life they can be subject to heavy questioning by the judge or arbitrator,’ Dr. Tan explains. 

Moots can cover arbitration cases, with Deakin University organising their own competition like the Alfred Deakin International Commercial Arbitration Competition. 

At Deakin University, mooters are trained to meet the intense demands of these competitions. ‘We train mooters to be able to think quickly and be prepared for the hard-hitting questions. The trick is to have done your research, so you’re prepared for anything,’ he says. 

Mooting is a thrilling experience for students 

Dr. Tan says that overall, students really enjoy moot court. 

‘There is a certain thrill to running arguments and handling questions. Mooting can actually be really exciting! You also get to meet and network with other Deakin law students and law students throughout Australia,’ he says. 

Mooting isn’t like a real court hearing; you get straight to the point to speed up the process which also makes it more enjoyable than the standard process. 

‘Much of the procedural issues in a real-life hearing are cut down in the moot court. The method of argumentation is also often more condensed,’ he explains. 

Moot courts also call for shorter preparation times, while real-life barristers get several hours to go through the statue and cases. Students in moot settings typically have 15-20 minutes to form their arguments. 

An opportunity to bolster your skills 

Mooting isn’t just an academic exercise; it’s a vital tool for honing crucial skills. ‘One of the best ways to improve your advocacy, analytic, and research skills in law school is to participate in a moot,’ Dr Tan notes. 

It’s valuable experience for generating pertinent questions in a courtroom setting and provides a glimpse into the legal world. 

‘From a practical perspective, if the student is thinking about becoming a barrister or work in litigation, mooting will let them see if they enjoy the process,’ he says. 

The significance of moot court experience isn’t confined to aspiring litigators. It is also something that is heavily favoured by legal employers even if the student isn’t looking to go into litigation. 

Can we conclude this with something punchy? Something like ‘While moot court can be testing on the nerves, it’s the tried-and-true activity that best prepares aspiring lawyers for judgment day.’ 

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Dr David Tan
Dr David Tan

Senior Lecturer,

Faculty of Business and Law,

Deakin University

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