I was fortunate enough to partake in the Moots again this year. This is my third year running and I am pleased to be able to help my colleagues at CLS to help students in the mooting process. This year will always be a memorable year in that most courses have had to move to a more blended programme. Moots are no different and have had to continue remotely. Whilst this process took some organization, students reacted to the new conditions favourably.
I interviewed Lynne Townley who has been coordinating the Moots process for a number of years. She is a Barrister and Lecturer on the BPTC at City Law School, University of London. She is also the Chair of the Association of Women Barristers.
What are moots?
Essentially a Moot is a legal debate, in their purest form they mirror arguments on points of law in appeal cases (in the higher courts). The whole idea has always been to give students the chance to present a legal argument in a setting like a real court. For students at the undergraduate and postgraduate level, it is a very important experience as it provides them with an opportunity to know if they have an aptitude for court presentations and can help them make decisions about whether they want a court or office-based law practice.
How long has the moot run for?
At City I would say mooting in one shape or firm has been going on for at least 20-30 years, maybe more. Moots themselves date back at least 300 years. There are records of moots taking place in the Inns of Court in the 1700s.
Usually, 4 students playing junior or senior counsel in 2 teams of 2 per moot and one (or more) judge(s). Each student makes a submission for around 10 minutes and they are questioned on it by the judge. Once finished the judge may give a judgment on the law. And one student or a team of students (depending on the rules,) are picked as winners. It may be a single moot or part of a knock-out competition.
What happened this year?
There was an unprecedented level of interest in mooting with over 100 students applying for just 60 places in the senior moot. Other competitions were also vastly over-subscribed. The moot had to be run online in Teams.
What challenges did you face whilst undertaking the sessions remotely?
The organization of the competition was challenging from an administrative point of view. And invites for each moot had to be sent out individually. On the bright side, mooting via teams is as good as live. And it may be the future as it means rooms don’t have to be booked and everyone can fit the moot more easily into their schedule if they don’t have to physically be somewhere.
The students had no difficulties and had no negative comments other than it would be nice to meet everyone face to face at some point. But I think being online will become the new normal for a lot of things. Many court hearings are now online and will likely remain so as it’s very cost-effective and also negates the need for travel and better use of everyone’s time.
So we may be training the students for the future of court appearances as these are likely to be moving more and more online in the future, due to the pandemic, the aging and costly physical court estate, and the overall convenience and cost-effectiveness.
What tools have you used in the main?
MS Teams for the moots themselves. With the organization of the competition and exchange of documents being via email. MS teams was great and totally fit for their purpose. The organization by email is now dated and needs improvement, see below.
What actions/tools/processes would you like to better next year?
Entries are currently invited by email. They come into my inbox in their droves which is a recipe for disaster. It also means I have to respond individually to over a hundred emails and send the details of each round out individually. That’s to 60 students in the first round plus 16 judges. I also have to do the draw of teams and assign the judges manually. Students then have to exchange documents individually with each other and the judges via email.
So this what I would like help with next year- maybe a central portal for entries to be sent too and a portal for exchange of documents would be a great start.