Disclaimer: This article is not intended to replace your LAWR tutorials.
As the semester draws to a close, there is a growing sense of anxiety in the air. The source of this anxiety? The LAWR moots.
Whether the issue is defamation or negligence, appellants and respondents alike are filled with dread at the thought of having to present their oral submissions and worse, face the wrath of the judges. But fret not because we have compiled advice from seniors who have suffered through the same torturous experience and come out safe and sound on the other side.
In the first installment of Justified’s Moot Survival Kit, we bring you interviews with the winners of the 2012 Rodyk Moots, Justin Wong, Sim Bing Wen and Nigel Yeo, who provide valuable insight as to how to survive the next few weeks of horror.
How would you describe your LAWR mooting experience?
Justin: It was really enjoyable. It is one of those practical things that you learn and can see yourself applying in the future rather than a 2.5 hour paper in an environment that you will never experience again once you leave law school (and part B).
Bing Wen: Mooting was the highlight of the LAWR curriculum. From fumbling through my first practice session, through the endless refinement of ideas, to the time spent testing out submissions on my tutor, classmates and mirror, down to the moment I closed my file in glee after having completed my moot, the entire process was a great learning experience even though it was over within a month.
Nigel: Better than sex … sextuple occasions of doing LAWR memorials, that is. Really, the moots were like a breath of fresh air after doing round after round of half-memorials, full memorials and getting bewildered when you made revisions based on your teacher’s comments only to have the memorial come back with a worse grade.
I guess like everyone else, the main motivating factor behind preparing for moots was to get a good grade for 20% of LAWR. I’d never seen my friends prepare for anything with such fervour before, and we spent many a night in the Tembusu College (UTown) lounges delivering our speeches to each other. We even role-played as judges and asked each other questions about our speeches, because that was one area that everyone knew was tough.
The thing about the LAWR moots is that if it is your first time mooting, apart from answering your tutors’ questions (which you would have experienced during Vivas/moot prep) you will have to accommodate the additional dimension of rebutting/surrebutting your opponent. Obviously your opponent isn’t going to give you easy things to rebut (unless y’all do an under-table arrangement outside…) so that was something unique, and actually quite exhilarating because my brain had to work furiously to take note of what my opponent submitted and then surrebut it with salient points.
Were there any highlights?
Justin: My highlight was the trip to ALSA in Melbourne in July. The trip is really fun and Rodyk is really generous! So all of you should be gunning for that coveted top 3 spots!
Nigel: I love hearing the sound of my own voice, and I constantly think that others should have the same privilege so actually the entire experience; down from preparation to the moot itself was one gigantic highlight. But in all seriousness, moot preparation was very fun! You get to see your friends speak and be awed at those who are normally quiet but speak tremendously well, and also you can tekan them in the name of preparing them and watch them squirm.
As you only get your moot grade after the exams (or at least I did), another highlight was being selected to take part in the Rodyk Moots! It came as a huge surprise to me that my tutors decided to choose me because I didn’t think I performed particularly well. This highlight of course transited to another immense highlight, getting to go to Melbourne for the 10-day all-expenses paid holiday…er wait I mean the challenging King & Wood Mallesons Championship Moots.
Did any prior experiences help you become a better mooter?
Justin: I don’t think there is anything in particular that helped me become a better mooter, maybe just thicker skin. It is all about preparation and confidence. If you are not even confident of your own submission, I doubt you can convince anyone with them.
Bing Wen: Once, I forgot to bring my ID and had to convince an aunty at a box office that I was really old enough to watch an M18 movie.
Nigel: Sarcasm and trolling others helps a lot. My friends will all vouch (angrily) that these two traits are strong in me. It’s not 100% a joke, though – coming up with retorts (witty or otherwise) to fire back, or thinking of creative ways to FB jack people requires a substantial amount of mental gymnastics.
I guess I’ve never been one to be afraid of speaking, or public speaking. I’m pretty loud and I don’t really have qualms speaking my mind. I think being an officer in the army also helped, because the very first time you stand in front of and address your platoon after it has been handed over to you, you cannot afford to look weak, and must be firm, coherent and lay out your expectations.
All the presentations done from secondary school to JC, and also watching a few debates when I was in debates in JC can also be considered exposure! I say ‘watching’ because the school team had already been chosen when I joined the CCA.
Also, does rugby make you a better mooter?
Justin: I don’t think rugby has given me any edge in mooting to be honest. The last thing I want to do is to tackle the bench into submission when they disagree with me. That said, the most help I think I got out of rugby for the moots is probably that the bench think that I am a “jock” and have lower expectations. So it was easier for me to impress them. 🙂
What would you say a Year One could expect from the moots?
Justin: Nerves and more nerves. You will be nervous. You will be afraid. But that is all part of mooting. So don’t let it affect you too much.
Be ready to think on your feet. You really don’t have much time to conjure up a smoke grenade to throw at the bench when they ask you a question so quick thinking will help you go a lot way. Of course don’t throw too many smoke grenades that you smoke yourself out in the process.
Bing Wen: To learn many useful things, such as the ability to disagree with someone without actually appearing to.
Nigel: Nerves. Pressure to do well to maintain/salvage your LAWR grades. Hard work and rounds of preparation before the moots themselves. Exhilaration after it’s over. Amusement when you stay back to watch your friends moot after completing it yourself. Awe at how well some of your friends speak.
Should we be afraid?
Justin: Not at all. Let’s look at this rationally. The judges are there to make your life difficult. It will happen regardless of how well you prepare or how unprepared you are. So don’t be afraid so much of what the judge is going to ask you but just be confident and familiar with your submissions.
Bing Wen: Not unless you left the bundle of authorities at home on moot day.
Nigel: If there were a list of “Don’ts” for mooting, being afraid would be right at the top of the list. Even if you have memorized your entire script, and printed it out for reference, and done tons of preparation – being afraid will negate all that. Worst case scenario: you walk in, express that you would like to please the court, and then freeze up completely because of fear. Best case scenario: you hesitate, stammer, your thoughts are disjointed, you don’t deliver your 100%.
Nervousness is pretty normal before a moot. I read somewhere where an experienced lawyer said that he still gets nervous before going to court, and its an indication that you know what is at stake and you want to do well. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you – do whatever it takes before the moot to calm yourself, be it splashing your face with water, prayer, getting a drink of water, taking deep breaths, etc. Apart from yourself, fear is your greatest enemy in the moot court!
If you could give one piece of advice to your Year One self, what would it be?
Justin: Stay calm. Everything will be alright! 🙂
Bing Wen: I tend to speak very fast when I’m nervous or excited so I would say to speak slowly and clearly. It has to be a deliberate effort and the pace should be slower than that of ordinary conversation. Pausing at the end of every sentence may help. I tended to have fairly long scripts and ended up rushing to finish every point. But as my tutor once reminded me, the moot isn’t about showcasing your knowledge of the law but about addressing the concerns raised by the judges and opposing counsel. Exposition is one thing, persuasion quite another.
Nigel: Sup, Year One Nigel. Damn, you’re good-looking. Luckily I’m buffer than you if not I would feel quite insecure. Anyway, make the effort to memorize your script. You think your head bobbing up and down from the rostrum very nice is it? This is not Zouk leh.
Any last survival tips?
Justin: Develop your own style that you are comfortable with. There is really no right or wrong style but just one that you are comfortable with. It helps with your delivery when you are comfortable and not stressed out by anything else other than the judges’ questions.
Also, heed the advice of your LAWR tutors. They have been doing this way longer than we have been in law school so I think their advice weighs more than our own opinion of whether they are right or wrong. More practically, they are the ones grading your moots so why incur their wrath?
Bing Wen: Perhaps to try and memorize your opening, from “may it please the court” to the part where you introduce your submissions. The judges won’t be firing questions yet (if they’re nice), so it helps you build momentum and confidence for when they do. Also, I think it’s useful to have a single-page summary of your cases, their key facts, and the page/paragraph numbers that you may need to refer the judges to.
a. Speak clearly and coherently – don’t rush through your submissions. Do a few rounds of timed preparation and see whether you can keep within the time limit – remember to factor in time for answering questions, and rebuttals. Shorten your submissions if you must.
b. Know the tutors that will be judging you. This isn’t even peripheral advice. Certain tutors ask certain types of questions, and others like certain styles/content. Find out who the other tutor judging you is and ask your friends about that tutor.
c. Prepare a digest of all the cases that you are using, containing a short summary of their facts, holding and citations. One of the things that tutors hate most is when they ask you what year or court a case is from and you have to flip through your printed out memorial to tell them. This information should be in your brain and if not, then at your fingertips.
d. Be prepared to answer why you are bringing in foreign cases, especially if they are not from Commonwealth jurisdictions. If a Singaporean case has pronounced a holding on that area, and you are bringing in a foreign case to explain why a different position should be preferred, you must have very good reasons why.
e. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Do it when you are free. Do it when you are queuing up for dinner. Prepare with friends – it’s proven to be at least 83% more effective than when you try to do so alone.
Fill in the blanks: Mooting is to _ as _ is to _.
Justin: You got me here cause I am extremely lousy at this.
I shall refrain from attempting an answer to prevent my reputation from being tarnished any further.
Nigel: Mooting is to law students as Emma Watson is to Nigel – perfectly complementing one another.
Article contributed by Allison (Year 1).