Moot court is an extracurricular activity at many law schools. Participants take part in simulated court or arbitration proceedings, usually involving drafting memorials or memoranda and participating in oral argument. In most countries, the phrase "moot court" may be shortened to simply "moot" or "mooting". Participants are either referred to as "mooters" or, less conventionally, "mooties".
Moot court involves a simulated appellate court (appellate advocacy) or arbitral case, which is different from a mock trial that involves a simulated jury trial or bench trial (trial advocacy). Moot court does not involve actual testimony by witnesses, cross-examination, or the presentation of evidence, but is focused solely on the application of the law to a common set of evidentiary assumptions, facts, and clarifications/corrections to which the competitors are introduced. Though not a moot in the traditional sense, alternative dispute resolution competitions focusing on mediation and negotiation have also branded themselves as moot competitions in recent times, as had role-playing competitions in the past.
Moot court is one of the key extracurricular activities in many law schools (the others being law review and clinical work) around the world. Depending on the competition, students may spend a semester researching and writing the written submissions or memorials, and another semester practicing their oral arguments, or may prepare both within the span of a few weeks. Whereas domestic moot court competitions tend to focus on municipal law such as criminal law or contract law, regional and international moot competitions tend to focus on cross-border subjects such as public international law (including its subsets environmental law, space law, and aviation law), international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international trade law, international maritime law, international commercial arbitration, and foreign direct investment arbitration. Procedural issues pertaining to jurisdiction, standing, and choice of law are also occasionally engaged, especially in arbitration moots.
In most moot court competitions, each side is represented by two speakers or oralists (though the entire team composition may be larger) and a third member, sometimes known as of counsel, may be seated with the speakers. Each speaker usually speaks between 10 and 25 minutes, covering one to three main issues. After the main submissions are completed, there will usually be a short round of rebuttal and even surrebuttal. Depending on the format of the moot, there may be one or two rounds of rebuttal and surrebuttal, and communications between speakers may or may not be prohibited. Throughout the course of the submissions, judges -- usually lawyers, academics, or actual judges -- may ask questions, though in some competitions questions are reserved to the end of submissions. In larger competitions, teams have to participate in up to ten rounds; the knockout/elimination stages are usually preceded by a number of preliminary rounds to determine seeding (power seeding is often used). Teams almost always must switch sides (applicant/appellant/claimant on one side, and respondent on the other) throughout a competition, and, depending on the format of the moot, the moot problem usually remains the same throughout. The scores of the written submissions are taken into consideration for most competitions to determine qualification (whether for the competition or for the knockouts) and seeding, and sometimes even up to a particular knockout stage.
International moot competitions are generally targeted at students (including postgraduates) and only allow participants who have not qualified to practice law in any jurisdiction. However, there are a handful of international moot competitions that are targeted at newly qualified lawyers, such as the ECC-SAL Moot, which is a regional moot started in 2012 and is jointly organised by Essex Court Chambers and the Singapore Academy of Law, and the New South Wales Young Laywers/CIArb competition.
The first table below lists some of the more notable international moot competitions for students, the second table lists the champions and finalists for the major or grand slam competitions, while the third and final table lists the champions and finalists for the minors and regionals. Major or grand slam international moots typically refer to class-leading moots or those that attract a substantial number of teams, while smaller or less established and region-only competitions are known as minors and regionals respectively; "international" class moots are sandwiched between grand slams and minors and regionals in terms of scale and prestige. Some countries also divide competitions into various tiers of prestige for the purpose of awarding points in league tables, with moots such as the Jessup and Vis competitions being considered as belonging to the highest tier.
|Competition||Established||Class||Primary subject matter||Record annual participation (year)||Location of international finals||National or regional rounds||Most (international) championships|
|Philip C Jessup||1960 (1968 for international rounds)||Major/grand slam||Public international law||645 teams (2017)||Washington D.C.||Yes||University of Sydney (5)|
|Willem C Vis||1993||Major/grand slam||International commercial arbitration||407 teams (2019)||Vienna||No||University of Ottawa (3)|
|Price Media Law||2007||Major/grand slam||International media law||140 teams (2012)||Oxford||Yes||Singapore Management University (3)|
|International Criminal Court||2005 (2007 for international rounds)||Major/grand slam||International criminal law||112 teams (2016)||The Hague||Yes||* Singapore Management University (3) |
* Leiden University (3)
|Sir Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot||1992 (1993 for international rounds)||Major/grand slam||Space law||74 teams (2017)||Varies||Yes||* George Washington University (3) |
* National Law School of India University (3)
|Frankfurt Investment Arbitration||2007||Major/grand slam||International investment arbitration||66 teams (2017)||Frankfurt||Yes||University of Miami (2)|
|Fletcher||2016||International||International insolvency law||28 teams (2020)||Varies||Qualification by written submissions||Singapore Management University (2)|
|Oxford Intellectual Property Law||2003||International||Intellectual property law||66 teams (2018)||Oxford||Qualification by written submissions||Queensland University of Technology (3)|
|Sarin Air Law||2010||International||Aviation law||41 teams (2018)||Varies||Yes||?|
|John Jackson WTO||2002||International||World Trade Organization law||99 teams (2018)||Geneva||Yes||University of Melbourne (3)|
|Foreign Direct Investment International Arbitration||2008||International||Investor-state dispute settlement||Varies||Yes||Murdoch University (2)|
|Nuremberg||2014||International||International criminal law||160 teams (2019)||Nuremberg||No||* University of Maastricht (2) |
* National University of Singapore (2)
|LAWASIA||2005||Regional||International commercial arbitration (since 2011)||41 teams (2018)||Varies||Yes||Singapore Management University (4)|
|Red Cross (Asia-Pacific) IHL||2003 (2004 for international rounds)||Regional||International humanitarian law||120 teams (2019)||Hong Kong||Yes||Victoria University of Wellington (2)|
|WTO/FTA (Asian WTO)||2010 (2015 for international rounds)||Regional||World Trade Organization law||35 teams (2017)||Seoul||Qualification by written submissions||* Seoul National University (1) |
* Singapore Management University (1)
|Asian Law Students' Association||2008||Regional||Varies||44 teams (2018)||Varies||Qualification by written submissions||Singapore Management University (2)|
|African Human Rights||1992||Regional||Human rights in Africa||Varies within Africa||No||* University of Pretoria (5)|
* University of Cocody (5)
|International Maritime Law Arbitration||2000||Minor||International maritime law||34 teams (2020)||Varies||No||University of Queensland (9)|
|International Moot Competition on Maritime Arbitration||2010||Regional||International maritime law||Odessa||No|
|World Human Rights||2009||Regional||International human rights law||Pretoria||Yes|
|Asia Cup||1999||Regional||Public international law||40 teams (2011)||Tokyo||Qualification by written submissions||National University of Singapore (6)|
|Hague Choice of Court Convention||2014||Minor||Private international law||12 teams (2015)||Varies||Yes||Singapore Management University (1)|
Law schools structure their moot court programs differently. Some moot court organizations accept a small group of people for membership, and those members each participate in a number of national or regional moot court competitions. Other schools accept a larger number of members, and each member is matched with one competition. A few schools conduct moot court entirely intramurally. Moot court competitions are typically sponsored by organizations with interest in one particular area of law, and the moot court problems address an issue in that field. Competitions are often judged by legal practitioners with expertise in the particular area of law, or sometimes by sitting judges.
The basic structure of a moot court competition roughly parallels what would happen in actual appellate practice. Participants will typically receive a problem ahead of time, which includes the facts of the underlying case, and often an opinion from a lower court that is being challenged in the problem. Students must then research and prepare for that case as if they were lawyers or advocates for one or sometimes both of the parties. Depending on the competition, participants will be required to submit written briefs, participate in oral argument, or both. The case or problem is often one of current interest, sometimes mimicking an actual case, and sometimes fabricated to address difficult legal issues.
A number of moot court competitions focus on specific areas of law. For example, the First Amendment Center annually holds a National First Amendment Moot Court Competition, in which the judges have included numerous United States Circuit Court judges.
The courts systems differ in various parts of the United Kingdom. Thus, the style of a moot will often vary depending in which jurisdiction it is to be heard, although some national competitions do exist. The principal differences are between the laws in Scotland and those in England and Wales. In England and Wales the moot will typically simulate proceedings in either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. Moot questions generally involve two questions of law that are under dispute and come with a set of facts about the case that have been decided at the first instance trial. Generally the question will surround a subject that is unclear under the present state of the law and for which no direct precedent exists. Mooting is a team effort, consisting of senior or lead counsel and junior counsel. It is normal practice for the senior counsel to take on the first point and the junior the second; although this may vary depending upon the exact nature, and necessary length, of the arguments. Typically the question will focus on one area of law, e.g. tort, contract, criminal law or property law.
The question will be provided to the teams a few weeks in advance of the moot along with details as to which of the appellant or respondent they are to represent. It is then up to each team to prepare their case as though they were barristers. Authority for each argument is necessary and will usually take the form of precedent from case law but may also involve legislation. Reliance may also be placed on governmental papers, research from NGOs and academic journals and texts. A few days before the moot takes place each team will prepare and exchange their skeleton arguments or brief. Copies will also be provided to the judge along with the moot problem. The judge is normally an academic or practising solicitor or barrister. The moot itself takes the form of an oral argument. The competition may also allow the appellants an additional few minutes in order to reply to the respondents arguments. After the presentation of arguments has concluded, the judge will retire to deliberate on both the law and the overall winning of the moot. A moot is not won and lost on the legal argument, but on the advocacy skills of the participants. It is often the case that the team that has the weaker legal argument is in a better position as they have to argue that much more persuasively.
In Scotland a moot can be set in a variety of fora; in civil law problems it is set most commonly in either the Inner House of the Court of Session or in the House of Lords, although it is not uncommon for a moot to be heard in the Sheriff Court before the Sheriff or Sheriff Principal. Occasionally, an Employment Appeal Tribunal may also be used as a forum for a Scottish civil law moot. If the moot problem concerns Criminal Law, the moot will most likely be heard as though in the Appellate division of the High Court of Justiciary (commonly known as the Court of Criminal Appeal). The moot points and style of the problem are similar to that of England and Wales stated above; however, the format of the moot is significantly different. Junior counsel is more likely to take the first moot point and senior counsel the second (this can however be reversed depending on the problem). The format of the moot is far more adversarial than that of English and Welsh moots. This is primarily due to a more adversarial legal system. This manifests itself in different ways, most notably with the appellants and respondents facing each other during a moot, rather than, as in England and Wales, facing the judge.
There is only one national Scottish competition, the Alexander Stone National Legal Debate, administered by the Law School at the University of Glasgow. All Scottish universities that offer the LL.B. are eligible to take part, although in recent years the competition has been fought out mainly between Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde universities. The final is held in the Alexander Stone Court Room at the University of Glasgow in February or March each year. There are also several annual inter-varsity competitions between law schools, including the Glasgow Sheriff's Cup (the University of Glasgow v the University of Strathclyde) and the Granite City Moot (the University of Aberdeen v Robert Gordon University). These competitions are ordinarily judged by a Senator of the College of Justice.