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Building courtroom confidence

With a strong track record in global competitions, Deakin Law School’s (DLS) Moot Programs offers outstanding, on-the-ground, courtroom learning.

One of the hallmarks of a successful legal career is a strong set of communication skills: the ability to listen, establish client relationships, explain legal jargon, and importantly, deliver persuasive courtroom advocacy.

But how do law students gain real-life, courtroom skills without actually going to court?

It starts with a moot

One of most valuable ways for students to build courtroom competency and confidence is by participating in university moot competitions.

Offered as part of DLS’s experiential learning (that includes Work-Integrated-Learning and Deakin Law Clinics), a moot is a simulated appeal court hearing that provides students with the opportunity to delve into a challenging problem, conduct research, prepare submissions, and hone their skills in collaboration, communication and persuasion. 

Dr David Tan, DLS’s Mooting Director, says mooting is the closest experience that students can have of working as barrister.

‘It requires students to make legal arguments on very complex topics before a moot judge. 

DLS’s Moot Programs help equip and prepare our students for a wide variety of intervarsity mooting competitions that are conducted both domestically and internationally.’

DLS Moots Program

With five competitions currently on offer, the DLS Moots Program enables students to participate in local and global competitions by providing mentoring and financial support. 

‘This year, where the rules of the competition allow, we have coaches for each team, workshops to help students build their advocacy skills, and practice moots to help students build their pre-competition confidence. The program provides a great learning experience and as it continues to expand, we will broaden our student support,’ says Dr Tan.

In teams of two-to-three, moot competition participants are required to prepare arguments on a high-level, often-complex, legal topic.

‘Typically, the early stages of preparation involve researching legal issues and constructing arguments for written submissions. In the later stages the students will then start transitioning to preparing oral arguments based on those written submissions. Where allowed, our coaches will meet with students to see how they are going and comment on both written and oral submissions,’ he explains.

Dr Tan says one of the advantages of this process is that while coaches can provide students with general guidance, they’re not allowed to advise on substantive issues such as research and argument.

‘In this sense the research is entirely led by students and the choice of argument depends on them. In contrast to a lecture about the definition of the law and what a case reveals, this is great pedagogical experience. In a moot, the students have to figure out the law on their own. In fact in some competitions the legal issues at play are so niche that there might be areas that even lecturers are not familiar with.’

DLS mooting triumphs

While all moots are now conducted online due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, DLS has a proud track record in domestic and global competition success.

At one of the world’s most prestigious private international law competitions, the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, DLS has twice taken out top spot in the Vienna rounds and made second place in the Hong Kong 2006 and 2010 rounds.

In 2018, DLS won the Deakin International Commercial Arbitration Moot with second placings in 2017 and 2019 competitions, and in 2019 won the Freemason’s Victoria Moot Competition while making second place in the Animal Law Moot.

While one of the key benefits of mooting is building legal communication skills, Dr Tan says it also plays a significant role in fostering legal thinking.

‘Mooting is an important opportunity for our students to tackle a legal issue that has no clear answer. Unlike writing an essay or paper, where there may be no real answer, students really need to come up with one because they need to win the case for their client.’

More information on DLS’s Mooting Programs can be found here.


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