Moot competitions: An invaluable opportunity for personal growth
- Subtitle: Ab Initio
Most law schools offer a number of moot competitions — some intramural based, some for credit. This learning experience is both challenging and rewarding for a number of reasons. Presently, I’m immersed in the preparations for an upcoming moot competition. Here are some advantages and drawbacks from my experience thus far.
The biggest advantage is the development of legal research and writing skills. There is no doubt that course work demands legal research and writing, but typically students are asked to write one, maybe two, essays per year. Unless they approach the professor for feedback, it is rare that students will receive constructive criticism to improve their core research and writing skills. Part of participating in a moot involves preparing a factum. This document must be well-researched and error-free. So far, I have thoroughly appreciated the level of thought and scrutiny that goes into each and every word. Each word serves an exact purpose. This approach to drafting will be incredibly useful throughout the rest of my studies, as well as throughout my career.
The second advantage to participating in a moot competition is the opportunity to work directly with a legal professional, whether a professor from the school or a sessional instructor. The lessons in legal writing have only been possible because of my coach. Most competitive moots will have a coach that oversees the progress and lends some advice through the stages of research and writing. Many coaches will take advantage of moments to demonstrate the process involved in drafting a factum. Already, my coach has invested many hours teaching us the appropriate language for legal arguments. This kind of attention is often unavailable through in-course studies.
Third, mooting allows for the opportunity to learn a particular area of law that you may not have been exposed to through coursework. For example, last year I was able to participate in a labour law moot. Having no background or course experience with this area of law, this was a perfect occasion to learn. Moreover, after the competition, I was able to speak with lawyers in the field to gain a broader understanding of labour and employment law. You may have the opportunity to gain a new interest in an area of law or decide that an area of interest may not be for you.
Participating in these competitions requires a tremendous amount of resilience, especially when you don’t have the basic knowledge in the area of law. Preparing a factum is tough. You will draft argument after argument only to have it reworked or completely changed. You will start one line of thinking only to be completely turned around three hours later. You will be staring at computer screen at 2 a.m. hoping words will just appear. This kind of experience requires patience, determination and the ability to work under stressful conditions. However, if you are on a team with likeminded individuals, the team’s bond will strengthen during the most frustrating periods.
You must also consider the amount of time required to submit a perfect product and prepare for the competition itself. The weeks before a deadline are crucial. Your team will have to have an “all hands on deck” approach. This means your coursework, your social life and any other projects will likely be put on hold. Your sleep schedule will be interrupted and you may not get to the gym as often as you would like. Although this is quite difficult, you are given a glimpse at the time management required of a lawyer in practice preparing for trial.
Having done three moots and preparing for a fourth, I can say with confidence that mooting has developed the skills I hold as invaluable for a career in law. Each moot has provided me with feedback and tips that I can apply to the next. Overall, my experience has been positive. The day of the competition is my absolute favourite — the adrenaline, the focus, the questions from judges. It is at this moment all the preparation surfaces. If you’re prepared, you will succeed.
Mooting is an opportunity to develop core skills like teamwork, and effective communication. Above all, it is a fantastic exercise in personal growth. You will learn about your advocacy strengths and weaknesses like no other experience in law school.
Courtney March is in her second year of law school at the University of Windsor. She is a citations editor for the Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues and vice president of the Cycling Association of Windsor Law. For the past nine years, she has worked in the fitness industry as a group exercise instructor, as well as a personal trainer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Column: Ab Initio