Wednesday, August 23

How to win a moot – Part 1: Written Submissions


What is mooting?

Mooting is a competition whereby two teams will argue over a “moot point” in a courtroom setting. Participants will be presented with a fictitious (although often based on real events) legal scenario and will be assigned to one side of the argument, usually either the appellant or the respondent. Teams are usually composed of two: one lead counsel and one junior counsel. Both teams shall create written submissions in the form of a skeleton argument and bundle, and then the teams shall meet in a courtroom scenario to make their oral submissions based on the research in their written submissions. The topic of mooting will be broken down into two sections: this one that will contain the introduction and details about the written submissions, and another article that will contain the details regarding the oral submissions.

Why do it?

Whilst it used to be a useful extra-curricular activity to throw on your CV, it’s more and more becoming something that you simply need to have. Never having done any mooting during your time as a law student is bound to raise a few eyebrows, especially if you want to go on and become a solicitor, or even more so a barrister. As well as teaching skills such as public speaking and boosting your self-confidence, it’s actually really fun! People often talk of the mooting ‘bug’, which is something I most definitely caught during my time at university.

My mooting background

Everywhere is different, and each mooting competition will have it’s own set of rules which should always be followed above anything else you read online, but during my time at university I did an awful lot of mooting. I was the deputy, and then the year after I was the master of the moot at the law society in Bangor, and after that a friend and I (coincidentally the other Editor of Legal Loop) established the legal advocacy society, where we were both successive Presidents. I have also of course participated in lots of competitions, winning the LexisNexis Welsh National Mooting Competition in 2014 and representing Wales at the semi-finals of the Telders International Moot Court Competition in the same year, as well as coaching the Welsh team the following year. So I feel that I’m in a position to hopefully shed some light on the whole mooting scene – that being said, don’t take my word as gospel, and depending on the rules in whatever competitions you are entering, always adapt.

It is also always worth remembering that the research for a moot should be done in the exact same way that you would for a legal problem question. Everything should follow an “ILAC” structure (Issue, Law, Application, Conclusion), and tackle one issue at a time. An in depth guide on approaching legal research is coming soon on Legal Loop!

The written submissions come in two distinct forms: Skeleton arguments and bundles. Let’s first take a look at the skeleton argument…

The Skeleton Argument

A skeleton argument is exactly what it sounds like – it is a skeleton of your argument. It’s up to you to put the meat on the skeleton during your oral submissions, but for now, a general outline is what is required.

Again it is crucial to check the rules for your competition. Many competitions set a limit of two sides of A4 and a particular font and font size, whilst other (in my view, crueler) competitions may limit that to one page!

Included in your skeleton argument should be a list of sources that you intent to rely upon in your oral submissions. This should include every Act of Parliament you intend to rely on, every piece of case law that you intend to rely upon, and any academic opinion or parliamentary debate that you may use. Anything not included in this list may not be relied upon during the oral submissions.

The skeleton argument (depending again on the competition rules) should begin with a brief summary of the factual matrix of the case. This is an opportunity for you to present the facts as you see them. Do not twist the facts, but feel free to use emotive language, for example:

“Mr. Bloggs then entered Mrs. Bloggs’ house, picked up the vase from the shelf and left.” – Respondent’s phrasing

“Mr. Bloggs then broke into the house and stole Mrs. Bloggs’ vase.” – Appellant’s phrasing

Perhaps the most important way of looking at a skeleton argument in a moot is this: It is a map. It is the most useful resource when you’re in the oral rounds, as it acts as a guide through your submissions to the judge. Structure is incredibly important because as soon as the judge loses track of your argument, it’s going to take a miracle for you to get back on the right track afterwards. Keep it simple and straightforward, and make sure that your line of argument is easy to follow just by reading through the submission. For an example of a skeleton argument, you can take a look at the skeleton that I used for the final of the Welsh National mooting competition here.

The skeleton argument is a very easy place to pick up points, but it’s also a very easy place to drop points. Make sure that the formatting is perfect, italicize case names but not the citations, and if a case has a neutral citation, then include it. Use the OSCOLA referencing guide (not an online generator, they are often wrong!) and keep it uniform.

One final note – you will have to disclose your skeleton argument prior to the commencement of the moot itself. Do not forget to do this, as in some competitions this can see you disqualified, or at the very least, docked several (if not all) of your marks for the skeleton!

The Bundle

The bundle is essentially the encyclopedia of your side of the argument. It should have print outs of every piece of legislation that you are using, every piece of case law you are using, and photocopies of journals where you may be relying upon academic opinion. As we will get to shortly, the most important thing in a moot (where you are ultimately arguing a point of law, not fact) is the dicta of judges. If the judge in your moot cannot read in front of him/her the exact wording of a judicial decision and the words of the judge in that particular case, then what’s to say that you’re not just making it up? Always remember: “He who asserts must prove.”

The layout of the bundle will vary quite a lot depending on the specific competition rules. Many national competitions will require participants to print out and include the full transcript of any case that they wish to rely upon.

Always remember to include a table of contents at the start of your bundle, and always make sure to paginate (number) every page of your bundle for reference and separate sections i.e. legislation/cases using file dividers. A good way of ordering the bundle would be as follows:

  1. Cover page – i.e. “Bundle on behalf of the appellant”
  2. Table of contents
  3. Original factual matrix
  4. Skeleton argument on behalf of the appellant
  5. Skeleton argument on behalf of the respondent
  6. Legislation in order of submission
  7. Cases in order of submission
  8. Academic journal articles in order of submission
  9. All other sources

When referring to your bundle in the oral rounds, use anything you can on the page to help direct the judge – the main aim is to make sure that they are still with you, following and understanding everything you say. If you are referring the judge to a particular passage of dictum in a case, and the printout or copy of the transcript has paragraph numbers, don’t be afraid to refer the judge to that paragraph:

“If I may refer your lordship to the dictum of Lord Wilberforce on tab 4, page 65 of the appellant’s bundle, you will read the following at the start of paragraph C…”

Sometimes you may be permitted to highlight the bundle, and if so this can make it very easy to direct the judge.

When printing out materials for your bundle, make sure you’re doing it in an appropriate fashion. Whilst you might be doing your research on Westlaw or LexisNexis, make sure that their logos aren’t on the page anywhere – it just looks unprofessional. Find the printable .pdf version of the file, or use a website like Bailii.

That’s all for the written part of the guide, for more information on how best to present yourself in the oral rounds, keep an eye on Legal Loop!


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Co-founder and Chief Editor of Legal Loop!

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