Mastering the transition to the courtroom with mooting competitions

By Naomi Neilson|22 March 2021
Mastering the transition to the courtroom with mooting competitions

For soon-to-be lawyers excited to take their legal careers into the courtroom, there’s nothing better to prepare them for it than mooting competitions. In a chat with Protégé, one leading law student talks about the benefits to advocacy in university. 

From representing Team Australia in Japan’s top international negotiation competition through to preparing for the upcoming Philip C Jessup competition, Australian National University (ANU) final-year student Madeleine McGregor will have an edge over the competition when it comes to transitioning into courtrooms. 

Although university prepares students with the tools that they need to understand how to apply the law in the real world, mooting competitions goes the extra step and equips young lawyers with the only thing missing from the curriculum: advocacy. 

“Often, law school assessments are writing an essay or problem question and making conclusions that are likely exploring both sides of an issue, whereas in mooting you really have to take a strong stance and work on being convincing to advocate for one side,” Ms McGregor told The Protégé Podcast recently

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“I think there’s a lot of really interesting elements that come out when you have to take that stance. Not only does it teach you how to be convincing and compelling and put forward an argument of one side, but it also allows you to question the normative side of the law as well and ask the consequences of a law.” 

Through the mooting competitions, Ms McGregor has been able to explore oral and written advocacy, constructing an argument, being convincing and “really sort of fighting for a side”, which are all key lessons to take into courtrooms. She said it’s a key part of being a lawyer to understand not just what the law is but also being able to advocate what the law should be and the way it should be changed in society. 

The negotiation skills that are learnt through mooting also come into play when future lawyers are talking to clients, starting contracts and resolving disputes. Ms McGregor said that if done correctly, “it really can avoid a lot of costs and delays for clients and lawyers”, which is a big takeaway from her mooting experiences. 

Another major thing Ms McGregor learnt was how to use “plain legal English” when drafting arguments, which she was taught during the Japan competition. 

“We had an expert come in and speak to us about the types of phrasings that are easy to understand for non-native English speakers, the importance of phrasing things in an active voice and the way this really has an impact on your submissions,” she said.

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“I think it’s really fundamental to the way the law should be practiced. It should be accessible. When it’s phrased in this clear way, you can really understand the issue with an argument, but also its strength and it’s so much more compelling when it’s phrased in a simple and clear way. That’s something after the negotiation competition that I have implemented in written submissions and it’s also something that I started being really conscious of in my law school assessments as well.” 

While competitions and the preparations are very time-consuming, the benefits are meeting experts in the field and networking with both team members and competitors. Ms McGregor said it is a “highly rewarding” time for all involved. 

“I think that really every student going through law school should give mooting a go, because once you’ve finished law school there really is no opportunity to stand up and practice your advocacy outside of going straight to court. Having this experience and having the opportunity to give things a go while trying out different styles – all whilst you’re not representing a real client – is really invaluable,” she said. 

You can listen to the entire podcast here.

Mastering the transition to the courtroom with mooting competitions
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