When I bail out on plans of going out with my friends, because I’m too busy working on a moot, the most popular response I receive from my friends unfamiliar with the peculiarities of the law school world is a big mouthed – WHAT? Not once, not twice, but rather an umpteen number of times. I have therefore, attempted to clear this confusion and explain what a moot court is to all those out there who are unaware of this concept. So, what is a moot court?
The term ‘moot’, according to Oxford and Chambers dictionary means, to propose for discussion; argue for practice; a matter about which there may be disagreement or uncertainly. A moot court is a simulation of the proceedings of an actual court of law. It is a voluntary, student-organised and the most popular extracurricular activity in most law schools. It is perhaps the closest experience a law student can have to the functioning of an actual court, as a lawyer himself/herself. To draw an analogy, as medical students experiment varied medical procedures on dummies, law students get a chance to practice the law through mock/moot courts.
In order to be better acquainted with the functioning of a court of law, law schools offer opportunities to students to participate in a large number of moot courts during the period of their course. The students are given a hypothetical case beforehand, based on a specific area or areas of law and the concerned side (plaintiff/defendant) from which they ought to argue. Thus, they have to argue their case as counsels of the concerned party. The counsel presents the arguments within a stipulated time frame. They also answer the questions posed by the panel of judges, who are generally distinguished lawyers and jurists. A number of times students have to present written submissions (also called memos) which entails their argument, further strengthening the stance of their side.
Some students participate for the experience, some do it for fun, some to learn the law, while the other do it to boost their CVs. However, it is perhaps the best way to hone one’s advocacy skills before facing the actual courts. Moot courts require a great deal of time, energy and effort because of the depth of research, the large scale drafting and the constant practising that goes into one case. Students are usually quite pumped up to work for this in order to learn rigorously and maybe enhance their general competitive spirit.
A moot court is quite close to the heart of every law student because of its intrinsic inter-connectedness with the actual court. It gives you a glimpse of what perhaps your future holds. Though moot court proceedings often have stark differences with the mannerisms of the court of law, it still teaches you how to research about the law and deftly present your case. More importantly, it teaches you the multiple ways of interpreting a law and how to build your defence.
The benefits are rather manifold. Moot courts help you amplify your knowledge in the area of law, in which your research is focused. It refines one’s writing skills, public speaking skills and research skills. But besides these factors, participating in moot courts has provided an exceptional bonding experience for me and my team, which gives you a mini-support system to get you through law school. The long hours of blood, sweat and tears that a team puts in to their case, are ultimately of more value than the outcome of the competition. One is perhaps bound to make the greatest friends in midst of the drudgery of drafting enormous briefs.
Participating in this activity may not guarantee a law student becoming a better lawyer, but it definitely teaches a law student many things that classrooms don’t, and the experience provided by participation in a moot court remains unmatched.