Mooting events and mock trials
When solicitors’ firms and barristers’ chambers are taking their pick from the huge number of applications for training and pupillage, one of the key factors they look for is evidence of commitment to a career in the law. They take into account, in particular, active participation in opportunities for mooting. We offer both mooting events and mock trials for our students to participate in.
Mooting is not only tremendous fun, and one of the best ways of learning the law, it is perhaps the only student preparation for the real life of practice. You too could be an international student advocate!
What is mooting?
- Mooting, as the rather antiquated name suggests, has a tradition extending back to the beginning of the legal professions. It is how lawyers trained in Shakespeare’s time. It is the closest you can get, while still a student, to presenting a case in court.
How does it work?
- In a moot, students play the role of advocates and argue a fictitious case in a variety of possible settings: jury trial; civil dispute; Court of Appeal; Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. The role of the judge is played by a practising barrister, Queen's Counsel or a real judge.
- The objective is not to win the case, but to put forward the most convincing arguments in the most professional manner. The winning team will be the team which makes the best presentation. The judge will not be a silent umpire, but will constantly intervene to test the arguments and the acumen of the student advocates. This, as much as having very good student advocates as opponents, is what strengthens student advocacy skills: research, analysis, legal reasoning, and public speaking.
Mock trial training
- Students take part in Mock Trial training, and a Mock Trial in which students play the roles of witnesses and jurors. There is also an Internal Mooting Competition and occasionally Mooting teams put on demonstration Moots for students interested in getting involved in mooting.
- The Director of Mooting at Birkbeck is Professor Bill Bowring, himself a barrister with many years of experience, now practising at the European Court of Human Rights. Organisation and inspiration are provided by Pat Costall, the Academic Support Officer. Our indispensable trainers are Philip King and Clare Dowse, both of whom are Birkbeck graduates and experienced barristers. The Captain of Mooting is William Van Zwanenberg.
- We are also highly indebted to our competition judges. These include Owen Davies QC, of Garden Court Chambers, Christopher Brougham QC of South Square, and Tim Marland of Quadrant Chambers. The advice and support they provide to the teams after the competitions is of immense value.
How we did in 2009/2010
- In 2009/2010, a large group of enthusiastic Birkbeck student mooters participated in a record number of external mooting competitions:
- The London University Mooting Shield (LUMS), in which we quickly went ahead on points, consistently dominating the leaderboard between October and the middle of March. Regularly pitted against one of the seven other competing London Universities (South Bank University, Kings College London, London School of Economics, Queen Mary, Westminster and SOAS), we reached the final at the magnificent premises of Allen & Overy, losing in the end to University College London.
- The Weekly Law Reports (WLR) Annual Mooting Competition, in which we reached the semi-finals at Grays Inn, beating the London School of Economics, City Law School, and BPP, until the Open University Team got the better of us.
- The Oxford University Press and BPP Law School National Mooting Competition, in which we beat the University of Winchester, before being beaten away from home by Reading University.
- The Inner Temple Varsity Moot was a day-long Sunday competition to which we contributed both a team, and a judge in the shape of Dr Matthew Weait. Once again, the Reading team won the day.
- The ESU- Essex Chambers Moot in which we competed against Kings College, who went on to the next round.
What plans are there for the future?
- Birkbeck students will certainly participate in an ever greater number of London and national competitions.
- For the future, our ambition is to compete at the European and international levels.
- At his previous universities, Professor Bowring organised students teams for the UK rounds of the Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. There are national rounds in over 90 countries, and the best teams go to Washington DC for the finals.
- He has acted as a judge many times in the UK and Russian competitions – this year 55 Russian universities competed, each with a team of five young people with excellent English, knowledge of international law, ability to draft two 8,000 word pleadings (memorials), and then to argue either side of the case in front of very difficult judges.
- Other international moots are: the ICCSN-Coladic International Criminal Law Moot; the Price Media Law Moot; the Telders International Law Moot Competition; the European Law Moot Competition.