A Nigerian Law Student’s Guide to Mooting – Part II

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In the first part of this guide to mooting, we discussed the need to prepare adequately beforehand, and also discussed in-depth, techniques and tips to bear in mind while preparing.

Now that you have prepared:

Be confident

If it helps, you can do what I do. After I have prepared adequately (on the assumption that everyone in court is smarter than I am), just before I get up to moot, I tell myself: Tolu, these judges cannot do what you are about to do, they will be impressed. You are a better public speaker than they are (this is not necessarily true, by the way). You know the facts of this case and the position of the law better than they do. You have been preparing for days/weeks/months. That cannot have been for nothing.’

Don’t judge me. I’m as humble as they come.

Now, confidence is not arrogance. No one likes an arrogant counsel/agent. You will challenge the judges with your arrogance. When they ask a question you have pre-empted, smile. You can say ‘thank you, your excellences for that question, in fact, the answer to your question brings me to my very next submission, which is that…’

In the preliminary parts of your moot, (your appearances, stating the case before the court, and asking the judges if they would like a summary of the facts of the case) please be easy going. If you are a female especially, smile. Yes, I understand that you are very concerned about the well-being of your client, but it is okay to be relaxed at first. You’ve got this. It is easy, the judges are not monsters. They are people’s mothers, fathers, friends, etc. Chances are that they have probably been in your shoes before, so relax.

Arrive at the court in good time so you can be settled before the moot. Dress well too for a confidence boost

Be yourself

A wise man once said- “be you, everyone else is taken”. No truer words have ever been spoken.

Now, in the Moot and Mock Committee at Obafemi Awolowo University, we are taught to be the best, the absolute best. We have a standard; we speak brilliantly, argue logically and we vary the pitch of our voices to suit the needs of our audience. We speak with confidence; our speech is polished, clear and distinct. In short, representatives of OAU’s Moot and Mock Committee always stand out. People know who we are even before they ask. This is undoubtedly due to the training we receive and the determination of our predecessors to impart excellence.

Notwithstanding this seemingly uniform manner of mooting established and sustained over the years, one thing that has remained constant is that every one individual is different and this uniqueness is reflected in their styles of argument and mooting.

The best mooters that have passed through the faculty of law, did not moot the exact same way. All excellent public speakers and advocates in their own right.

I remember the day I was chosen for the Space Law Moot. I found a video of OAU students mooting at the competition in 2011. In that video, a particular student was announcing appearances, and I just loved the way he did it, from the way he stood to make his appearance to the way he brought his hands together when he did, his tone, and to the pitch of his voice. To me, everything was perfect, and I made up my mind that that was the exact same way I wanted to make my appearances in South Africa.

Eventually, I didn’t even get to make the said appearances as I was not the first speaker. That is not the point though, the point is that in attempting to moot exactly like that, I student, I forgot that we were not the same person. Firstly, he is a guy and I am not. There was no way on earth I would sound exactly like he did and anyway, there was no need at all to make appearances the way he did. I eventually learned that in my own way, I was a great speaker, and I was interesting to listen to, and I could impress by simply being the best version of me.

Please tell yourself this sometimes, just because it’s true. Don’t get me wrong, however, it’s okay to try to improve and emulate some mannerisms and expressions, but if they don’t fit, don’t force it.

Answer questions brilliantly

I have hinted at this before. This is probably the most difficult part of mooting. Expect questions from the judge. If you know your arguments, you are aware of the facts and are not completely reliant on your notes, you should be able to deal with anything the judge throws at you.  Always remember that you are trying to win over the judge, so if the judge is unhappy about something and needs to ask a question, you need to deal with that issue. It is okay to pause for a bit to consider the question before replying.  If the judge has defeated one of your arguments, remain gracious and move on to an alternative argument. However, if you think the judge is pushing you in the wrong direction or has misunderstood your point, you should gently attempt to refocus the argument. Never interrupt the judge.

Very importantly, even with all your cunningness and brilliance, it may happen that there is a question posed to you by a judge that you are absolutely unable to answer (this should rarely ever happen though if you are proactive). When this happens, make an attempt if you like, but if that fails, and the judges let you know you are getting it all wrong and offer an answer, please do not waste your time my friend. Defer to the wisdom of the court with the little dignity you have left, take the hint and move on.

 

In conclusion, seek feedback after your moot. Remember, you are a great mooter if you can construct a sound argument, manipulate an awkward precedent, come up with clever answers quickly, and turn a hopeless case around.

Tolulope Dada is a 400 level law student at Obafemi Awolowo University. She is passionate about Tax and Finance, and has interned with KPMG Nigeria and SIAO.

Tolulope is a member of the Debate Committee, and the Moot & Mock Committee of her Faculty. She started mooting in 2016 and has represented her university, Nigeria and Africa in a number of competitions.

The height of her mooting career came in 2016 when she and her team won the Africa round of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot and went on to become runners up of the world finals in Guadalajara, Mexico, presided over by judges of the International Court of Justice. 

Other competitions she has participated in include Dele Adesina Moot and Mock Competition, 2016 and 2017; Professor I.O. Agbede National Moot and Mock Competition, 2016; Price Media Moot, 2017 and the International Humanitarian Law Moot, 2017.

 

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