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Building experience with legal competitions

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Legal competitions are a strong tradition in Australian law schools. Participation affords students the opportunity to develop practical legal experience and improve their legal research and reasoning skills. Almost every law school in Australia runs some kind of legal competition, often facilitated by the campus law student society.

What is a moot? 

A moot is a simulated appeal in a superior court, based on a hypothetical scenario and judgment from a lower court. There are no witnesses called to the stand – just good old-fashioned legal arguments about whether or not the lower court decision was correct.

Expect to be queried and questioned by the judges as they test how well you know your facts and precedents surrounding a particular point of law. Mooting is generally run in teams of two or three with the optional third member acting as an assistant solicitor.

In addition to providing you with an opportunity to put your legal skills to use, moots are a great way to gain extracurricular experience and impress prospective employers. It’s no surprise that some of Australia’s best known and most successful legal practitioners are ex-mooters. Reflecting on his own mooting experiences, the Honorary Michael Kirby wrote: 

‘It is… as proper in the new millennium, as it has been useful throughout the millennium just closed, to train the new professionals in the arts of persuasion. This means mooting. And if moots make the student’s heart race faster, it is nature’s way of alerting the mind and sharpening its focus.’

What is a witness examination competition? 

During a witness examination competition, teams of two students – acting as a barrister and a non-competitive witness – simulate a civil or criminal trial. Barristers, acting for either the defence or the prosecution, take turns examining or cross-examining the witnesses in a bid to corral the facts of the case and present them to the judge. Witnesses must memorise the facts of a hypothetical case and testify in strict accordance with them. 

What is a negotiation competition? 

Negotiation plays a fundamental role in the law, both as a popular tool for alternative dispute resolution and as a necessary precursor to the finalisation of contracts and other agreements. Skillful negotiation requires patience, the ability to prioritise and, of course, a willingness to compromise. A negotiation competition features two teams of lawyers, each representing a hypothetical party, who attempt to negotiate the terms of, and hopefully resolve, a dispute. 

What is a client interview competition?

The ability to interview a client is critical to efficient legal practice. To test this skill, client interview competitions require teams of two students to play the role of lawyers who are visited by a potential client for a preliminary meeting.

Teams will receive a limited amount of context for their client and must rely primarily on their ability to identify the material facts of a case. They generally have 15 minutes with each ‘client’. The clients are instructed to exhibit a range of personalities, from sedately compliant to brashly uncooperative.