Most law students, prior to joining the legal profession have only seen courtrooms in movies and courtroom dramas like Suits, Boston Legal, Law & Order, The Good Wife, etc. Their first full-blown experience of a courtroom in real life is usually in the moot or mock court in their law colleges. From knowing nothing about courtrooms to being thrown into this mooting arena is unnerving for them, to say the least.

So now, we will try to understand the what’s, why’s and the how’s of a moot court, mooting and everything in between!

What is mooting?

Moot refers to an unsettled issue that remains open to argument. It also refers to an undetermined legal question which is yet to be decided by any court. In present-day context, mooting is the submission of oral and written legal arguments, against an opposing counsel, based on a given unsettled legal problem, before a judge or a bench. The students are assigned sides: plaintiffs/appellants or defendants/respondents, and then they analyse the legal problem, research, prepare memorials and make submissions before the judge(s).

The exercise of mooting spans over 500 years starting from the inns of the court to the present day moot courts that we know of. The concept remains the same – young lawyers training in the art of pleading their case, before much-experienced lawyers who are acting as judges. Present day moot court competitions are being performed at internal, national and international levels to inculcate the art of practising in courtrooms.

What is a moot court?

A moot court is a mock court hearing usually in an appeal stage, where the participants make oral submissions before the judges after analysing a legal problem. The participants have to research the relevant laws, draft written memorials and plead their case before the panel of judges. The moot problem is usually in unsettled areas of law or laws which have had recent changes or development. They have few grounds of appeal which is argued by each side.

What is the difference between a moot court and a mock court?

A moot court and a mock court are not the same. While both have a simulation of a courtroom and its mannerisms and practice, they differ from each other.

In a mock courtroom, the trial of the case is done. So the participants may conduct examination-in-chief, cross-examination of the evidence and then it is admitted upon satisfactory arguments. The participants are to frame their arguments in a conversant manner before the judges. Usually, there is no interruption in opening or closing statements during a mock court trial.

Whereas, in a moot court the evidence is already admitted. The participants submit their arguments based on facts, supported by precedents, legal provisions and case laws. The judges may interrupt the submission to seek clarifications.

What are the different types of moot?

Essentially, there are two types of moot court competitions – national and international. But, based on procedures and nature of moot problem there can be different types of moot. Like, an arbitration moot which revolves around an arbitration problem and follows its procedure, or a trial advocacy moot, or a civil moot or criminal moot. There are also moots based on the area of laws like intellectual property law moot, commercial arbitration moot, anti-trust moot, human rights moot, space law moot, etc.

What are the essentials components in a mooting competition?

  1. Fact Sheet

The holy grail for the moot court competitors is the fact sheet or the problem sheet. You cannot argue if you don’t know your facts. The facts are essential for the moot court competition as their analysis is what will win the competition. You may know the law, but if it doesn’t support your facts properly, then you are in for trouble.

The fact sheet is the legal problem along with the details like circumstances, background, the dispute and even your legal grounds! Everything you need to know about the case is in there. It is the first step from where you start to build your case.

A sample of moot court problems can be downloaded here.

2. Research

 A good lawyer can argue for any side! The research should initially be based on what the fact sheet mentions. For instance, if X has a dispute with Y who has launched a product with a similar appearance, you immediately know it is related to intellectual property law. Then you can find out whether the design or the logo or the name or all of it has been infringed and how!

Then there are the applicable procedural laws, related laws, relevant case laws, bylaws, constitutional provisions, executive rules supporting your side of the arguments. There is no way around good research. It is the entire basis of your case!

3. Written Submission/Memorials   

The next thing is writing the memorials or written submissions. Usually, the rules of the moot court competition give some specification regarding the standard formatting of the memorials like font size, spacing, margins, etc. which has to be adhered to.

The standard components of a memorial are cover page, table of contents, index of authorities, list of abbreviations, statement of jurisdiction, statement of facts, statement of issues, the summary of arguments, arguments advanced and prayer. The detailed components of a memorial are available here.

The presentation is of utmost importance in a competition. A judge who has to go through several memorials is likely to favour a memorial which makes his work easier, i.e., a memorial which is well formatted, paginated, clearly demarcated, arguments and case laws which has a logical flow and is easier to comprehend.

A sample of moot court memorials can be downloaded here.

4. Oral Arguments

The quintessential aspect of mooting is presenting the arguments to the opposing counsel and the panel of judges. It is not the same as debating or public speaking. It is an art of linking the facts and the research to convince the judges of your side of the argument. The mannerisms are essential to the court decorum and they must be maintained while submitting the oral arguments.

The oral arguments are based on one’s memorial and one cannot deviate from it, except probably with the judges’ permission. The oral submission has to capture the judges’ attention and has to be paced accordingly. As the competition has time constraints, participants should give a brief outline of their facts and arguments at the onset. There should be a logical connection in one’s arguments and the speakers should slowly build up to the main contention.

Sometimes, if the time permits, the judges’ may give time for a rebuttal to the participants, so while the other side is making their submissions, it is pertinent to note the points for rebuttal. This can be possible only if the research is extensive and from an overall perspective.

5. Rules of the Moot Court Competition

Although the rules of moot court competitions are overall standard, every participant receives these guidelines and must adhere to it. The rules may vary sometimes regarding time allotments, formatting, etc. Afterall, it is a competition and the one scoring higher on the different components of the competition wins!

6. Soft Skills

In the moot courtroom, the decorum and mannerisms imitate the real courtrooms as much as possible and no participant should be held in contempt of court in any event. So participants bow to judge as they enter, clerks announce the matter and keep time, mooters give their oral submissions, judges ask them few questions and the court is adjourned for brief judgment and feedback on participants’ performance.

The participants are expected to be well-groomed and in proper court attire for a courtroom. No lackadaisical, rude and unruly behaviour would be appreciated by the judges. Make eye contact with the judge and listen to both the judges and opposing counsel carefully. You can only rebut what you have heard in the first place. Never interrupt judges when they are speaking. Speak simply and confidently.

There are tips and techniques which aid a mooter and work in the background during the competition. They are things which seem too obvious but are often forgotten. You can read more about this here.

Why should you moot?

Mooting helps law students to think deeply about legal problems and its possible approaches. It improves their overall advocacy skills i.e., legal research, writing skills and oral submissions. It offers the experience in a mock court setting and an opportunity to network, aside from prizes and internships (some international moots offer that as a prize). It adds value to the law students interested in court practice as a career.

Which are some of the popular moot court competitions?

Following are some of the popular national and international moot court competitions:

International Moot Court Competitions
National Moot Court Competitions
The Willem C. Vis (East) International Commercial Arbitration Moot, Hong Kong, China
NLS International Arbitration Moot Competition, Bangalore
The Oxford International Intellectual Property Law Moot, Oxford, U.K.
D.M. Harish Memorial Moot Competition, Government Law College, Mumbai.
The Annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, Vienna, Austria
Bar Council of India Moot Court Competition (No fixed location)
International Criminal Court Moot Court Competition
NUJS Herbert Smith National Corporate Law Moot Court Competition
Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition
The NLU-Jodhpur Anti-Trust Moot Court Competition, Rajasthan.
Red Cross International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Moot
School of Law, Christ University National Moot Court Competition
Henry Durant Human Rights Moot
ULC Bangalore All India Moot Court Competition
Leiden-Sarin Air Law Moot Court Competition
All India Corporate Law Moot Court Competition, NLU Delhi
Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition
NFCG-Nalsar Moot Court Competition on Corporate Governance
Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition
NALSAR Justice Bodh Raj Sawhney Moot Court Competition
Price Media Law Moot Court Competition
Amity Moot Court Competition
Stetson International Environmental Moot Court Competition
KLA Moot Court Competition, Kerala

Mooting is a compulsory part of education in many law schools and there are moot court societies and clubs in almost all law schools. These moot court societies help organise and conduct the intra-school competition and train students for inter-law school competitions as well. There are online courses which offer technical expertise and guidance for moot court competitions, as well. The mooters have all the help they need available at their fingertips!

So, to the all the prospective mooters, enjoy the enriching experience and ace your moot court competitions!

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