updated on 17 August 2021
At first, I was apprehensive about whether I would be good enough to get involved in mooting. The concept of mooting is often painted as quite intimidating and a lot of my peers who were mooting had had previous debating or public speaking experience, which I did not. Their confidence put me off and I started to doubt myself. For this reason, I initially didn’t sign up for the GDL moot. However, fortuitously, a few places became available and after being encouraged by friends and family, I decided to apply, which turned out to be a very good decision.
My first experience
When I began my legal journey, I was unsure whether I wanted to become a solicitor or barrister but getting involved in mooting helped me to decide. After a lot of preparation for the moot, I found presenting my arguments rewarding in a way I had not really expected. I had been worried that I would embarrass myself before my peers or the judge, so I went overboard when I was preparing. However, this meant that the GDL moot went very well and I thoroughly enjoyed it! After this experience, my confidence in my ability to moot well increased significantly. As a result, I applied to other mooting competitions, which ultimately cemented my decision to pursue a career at the Bar.
Dealing with weak submissions
Of course, mooting does not always go the way you would like it to; but that, in itself, is an important learning experience. To illustrate, after a university dropped out of a mooting competition, I was asked to step in at the last minute with another student to represent City, University of London. We had 24 hours to prepare (on a Sunday) and I had to use a skeleton argument that was not mine. A discussion with our supervisor confirmed that one of the submissions I had to give was particularly weak and was actually counter-productive to our position. Consequently, in the moot, the judge persistently intervened while I was making this submission and questioned why I was making such a counter-productive argument. While I naturally found this stressful, I remained calm and answered his questions as best I could before eventually saying: “I am aware this is not a particularly strong submission My Lord but if you will allow me to move on to my next submission, I believe you’ll find it more favourable.” Sometimes being honest about things and simply moving on is the best solution.
For aspiring barristers, it’s important to note that weak submissions and difficult judicial interventions are bound to occur at some stage in your career and learning how to deal with it in a moot rather than in real life is far better. Although mooting is challenging, you will learn so much about what being a barrister and standing up in court involves. I did it during a pandemic and online which changed the experience entirely and I’m sure that doing it in person is far more intimidating. Despite this, even if you are not the best public speaker, you should still go for it! Throw yourself into mooting and you might surprise yourself with how much you enjoy it and how good you may be at it.
Learn about different practice areas
Moreover, mooting forces you to learn about areas of law in greater depth than you ordinarily would have done. Often these areas of law are, in fact, areas that you are studying. This can be extremely helpful for your final exams as you will have already completed wider reading, giving that extra depth to your exam answers. Naturally, you have to be realistic and balance mooting with your workload so doing every single moot may not be beneficial.
Mooting isn’t just for confident public speakers
Nonetheless, getting involved with a couple of moots is more than worth your time because it teaches aspiring lawyers invaluable skills. I have always found my opponents to be very encouraging and supportive even if I did make a mistake with my submissions. For anyone feeling apprehensive about mooting, I would recommend participating in the GDL moot or a first-year moot as most people will be in the same boat, which takes some of the pressure off. It is not something you will be good at only if you are highly confident and love the sound of your own voice; it is something that people with low self-confidence or a fear of public speaking can enjoy and excel at, as my own experience has shown me. I highly encourage everyone to get involved in at least one moot!
Elizabeth Wentworth is a GDL post-graduate. She will be commencing the Bar Vocational Studies with Specialism at City, University of London in Autumn 2021.