By Kirti Krishna
I remember the first moot I went to as a speaker. It feels so long ago but the memories of it are as fresh as it can get. A ‘division’ bench at Delhi University’s Campus Law Centre heard my round of arguments.
If the January cold was not enough, the disgust on the judge’s face made it worst. I headed up to the podium, cleared my throat and said – “may it please your ladyship” to two judges, both men.
Imagine the wave of embarrassment that spread itself through my body. What followed was a series of sensible, legit questions which were countered with embarrassing, senseless responses.
I could see my career as a lawyer through two extremes and myself, swinging between them like a pendulum. I was embarrassed and I was choking, and I wanted to walk off. How could an experienced lawyer ask a second year law student detailed questions about extradition treaties and how the same can be validated internationally? I asked myself.
Alas, I was battered, I felt ashamed. I had travelled 30+ hours all the way from Mangalore in a second class compartment to Delhi to be treated this way. It wasn’t right, I said to myself.
After the Campus Law Centre experience ended, I buckled up for my next moot. My experience in my third year at the Government Law College, Thrissur. It was during this moot where I partnered with a senior of mine, Preethika.
The thing about Preethika is that her legal acumen as a student of law was unmatched. I always saw her as a person who plays by the law. I on the other hand always chose easier means – I liked to play by the facts.
If it was a matrimonial case, I would choose to emotionally blackmail the bench, if it was a criminal case and I supported the accused, I would like to play by the facts and try being logical about whatever I said.
However, the one thing I liked to play by the most was by making best use of my charisma – we all have it, we just don’t use it enough.
After Preethika and I finally teamed up, we figured that there’s a lot we could do together to make sure we for the least don’t cut a sorry figure of ourselves before the esteemed mooting community.
We kind of figured out a number of strategies, which if used sensibly can help a person ace a moot. Now, the thing about moots, which I find most unfortunate is the fact that luck and chance has a big role to play. But let’s say you get lucky, do you still think you could make it big?
Here are a few tips on the top of my mind which you could use in order to ace a moot. Remember, these are not exhaustive and are subject to constant changes from time to time.
Moot Court Tip 1: Choose your Team Wisely
So when my co-counsel Preethika (Who also happens to be a very close friend of mine) and I would argue a case, she would go first. This is where I figured out how important it is to have a great team which is highly compatible.
Moot courts can go totally wrong if the team has friction. I’ve seen people pass the blame when they under-perform. I’ve seen such extents of bickering where each of them wants to blame the other for the screw up. But that’s definitely not how it works!
Preethika would always argue first and she would more than often speak from a legal perspective highlighting the nitty-gritties of all the Sections and Articles as the case would have been.
I would see the judges grill her with questions about the law and would watch how she would take each and every question with grace and answer them with such sensible responses. I’ve always been in awe of her legal knowledge – it’s awesome!
When my turn would come, the judges would have more or less been pretty satisfied with the legalities. I would take the case on facts and argue in a manner where logic would work best.
Preethika and I, would not once blame each other for screwing up. All “casualties” were dealt with utmost maturity. For us, the moot was all about giving it our best shot – winning or losing wouldn’t be the criteria.
Moot Court Tip 2: Research is important – there are no in-betweens:
This is one part where I often goofed up. I would seldom spend a good three hours a day for research before moots. A lot of us think research is unimportant and we could probably go all extempore before the judges.
But the problem with the law is that, if you don’t read it you don’t know it. And as long as you don’t know it, you’re never going to be able to understand it.
Always ensure that you pick a moot up at least a month before the date to send the memorials is due. And do your research well. Try analysing the problem from different perspectives and come up with many answers.
A lot of moots today come with problems without issues being framed. I think of this as a great opportunity for us to enhance our analytical skills and look at the problem through different sides. Always ensure that you spend a good amount of time reading up commentaries and case laws.
Remember that case laws are mostly what will help you win your case. All the courts function on precedents, that’s how it works in reality. So in the absence of case laws, it’s going to be difficult to move the court into adopting something that has never been adopted.
Another medium you could use for research are news articles. Although most moot courts would treat these as merely persuasive and not binding, you, on a personal level would be in a position to acquaint yourself with the real facts of the case.
All moot court problems though supposedly fictitious are based on real events. Hence, try looking up the original case and look at how it works. There is absolutely no shortcut here. With no research, you really aren’t headed anywhere.
Moot Court Tip 3: You have a personality – Use it!
Remember, at the beginning of this article I told you guys about my bad experience at the Delhi moot? Where I referred to male judges as your ladyship? This kind of helped me in all my future moots, especially when I had a lady on the bench.
While starting off, I would say – “With the kind consent of your ladyship, may I collectively refer to the bench as your honour?” This is what creating an impression is about. A lot of people still enjoy the occasional well-mannered, good boy/ girl behaviour.
I figured that the moment you make a statement like this, you’re hitting other sensitive chords – gender equality for starters! Why refer to the bench as your ‘lord’ship when there are women?
Always be very respectful and speak by maintaining complete eye contact. Do not refer to the bench disrespectfully and keep a smile on your face. Spend a good two-three minutes making a decent introduction and always remember to introduce your researcher as well.
Refer to your opponents with respect and always make it look that you hold your opponent’s intellect on an even keel. Never talk when the bench is talking – nothing pisses them off more than that.
When a judge is questioning you, wait patiently until the judge completes the question. Do not use jump into conclusions before you understand the query. Charisma and a show of personality can take you a long way.
Moot Court Tip 4: Language is NOT a barrier
For all the moots I’ve been to, I’ve always noticed people who tend to squirm out a bit because of this feeling that their English is not up to the mark.
But let me tell you this, no matter how weak your language is, as long as you’re making a point – you will do it well! Language should not be a barrier which prevents one from expressing oneself. If I say, “I say you to do well in a moot” or “I am telling you to do well in a moot” and if what I am trying to say has been conveyed, why worry?
Please remember that no one in a moot court, neither you, nor the ones judging you speak Shakespearean English. Let language not dissuade you from giving your best shot!
Always bear in mind that your speech doesn’t define you – your knowledge and your mannerism does. However, try and avoid using fillers. I would use the word “basically” very often when I made an argument. After a point it gets annoying – seriously. Try keeping a flow in your speech.
What I mentioned above are only a few out of tens of other tips! I will be coming back with a little more tips here and there on how each of us could enhance our skill-sets and our speech.
For now, all I want to say is that during my final year apprenticeship, I remember my senior telling me – “Law is a jealous and evil mistress”. It sure is! Don’t ever let any loss big or small take your passion away from you.
All of you who read this article till here have done so for a reason, and I’m sure with a little conviction, you’re going to make it a looong way. All the best for all your mooting endeavours. Shine on. J
You can write to me if you feel like: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirti Krishna is a 23 year old, Corporate Lawyer, working at Themis. He completed his B.A., LL.B. at SDM Law College, Mangalore. At present, he is pursuing Master of Arts at Annamalai University, Chennai, with a specialization in Political Science.
Kirti belongs to the Toast Master’s Club and is also the winner of MTV’s reality show, On the Job, season 2. Multi talented at various cultural fields and events, Kirti is also a social activist. He is one of the co-founders of I Am Change, which is an organisation with an initiative for social change and development. The establishment aims at working with various levels of the society, targeting social issues, and to bring about a change for the betterment of the country. He also blogs here.
Recently his first book; Piece of mind – Pun intended, was released. Lawctopus did an interview here.