Mooting Skills Guide

Mooting is an excellent way of learning, practising and perfecting advocacy. By participating in mooting, you'll learn to do what lawyers do on a daily basis. Plus, you'll increase your confidence and enhance your CV.

What is mooting?


Why bother?


About this resource

This resource helps you develop your own mooting skills. If you work through all the modules in this resource you should be able to:

Module Contents

  • What is Mooting?
  • Why bother?
  • Thinking and research
  • Organising points
  • Preparing notes
  • Principal submissions
  • Dress and behaviour
  • Addressing the judge
  • Introduction by first counsel
  • Submissions
  • Handling questions
  • Citing authorities
  • Concluding your argument
  • Enter a competition
  • Organise a competition
  • Share mooting videos


What is Mooting?

A moot is a fictitious legal debate simulating the argument of counsel on points of law, set in an appellate jurisdiction. Two student counsel (a senior and a junior) on each side argue points of law arising from the fictitious appeal.

The moot bench comprises one or more judges, played by academics, practising lawyers or real judges. The bench rules on points of law, and your mooting ability.

Top tip: A moot is not a mock trial, which is a fictitious representation of a first instance trial involving witnesses, a jury and the establishment of the credibility of evidence. Mooting allows you to focus on the law rather than be swamped by the complexities of organising a mock trial.

Why bother?

By participating in mooting, you'll learn to do what lawyers do on a daily basis. Mooting increases your confidence, enhances your CV and develops your skills of:

Last but not least, mooting is fun.

Legal thinking and research

In many ways, academic legal studies focus on areas where the law is still developing, or unsettled. In real life, cases rarely touch on these cutting edge issues and instead concentrate on one or two key points. Mooting trains you to find those key points quickly and efficiently. Because most moots are time-constrained, you'll also learn the art of distinguishing the relevant from the periphery.

The quality of a mooter's argument will depend to a considerable extent on the amount of careful thought she or he has given to the moot problem, and on the depth of their research. The mooter learns to navigate his or her way through primary sources and standard works.

Find out more about thinking and research when preparing for a moot.


In order to put together persuasive arguments within the permitted time limits, mooters must analyse large quantities of information and decant them into a cohesive set of points.


As virtually all moots involve students working together as teams, mooting inculcates the skill of working with others to achieve the best possible collective result. In all mooting competitions, the students that score the highest mark as a team will win the moot.


Mooting is an excellent way of learning, practising and perfecting advocacy.

Advocacy is a skill required of many who work in the legal sphere. Barristers obviously have to be good advocates, but increasingly solicitors too have rights of audience in the courts and a number now specialise in advocacy work. Outside of the specialist legal professions, graduates with advocacy ability will be able to call on those skills when preparing for and making presentations to an audience.

“we learn advocacy by doing. So practise. Practise. Practise. Practise”
Ian Morley, an Oxford graduate and world debating champion, now a barrister specialising in Criminal Law, from chambers at 23 Essex Street, London.

Knowledge of the law is one thing, being able to present it coherently and persuasively is altogether more daunting. Mooting helps build confidence in your ability as an advocate. If you have successfully presented cases in front of experienced legal practitioners and tutors, you'll gain the confidence to present cases in real tribunals later on in life.

Advocacy is a specialism, and competition for places is fierce. Some Bar Vocational Courses will only admit students with a proven track record in mooting.

The taste of advocacy presented by mooting will help you decide if life as an advocate is indeed for you, or if you would enjoy other aspects of the law more.


Scroll down to read about the main preparatory tasks, or click on a link to jump directly to that section.

Thinking and research

Popular drama usually depicts advocacy as no more than a glamorous lawyer making a few ‘case-winning’ points in a packed courtroom, usually arrived at in a moment of sheer inspiration! A true advocate, however, will tell you that the many hours spent researching and preparing for a case are the true lynchpins to success.

Thinking and research are interdependent: thinking about the problem will suggest lines of enquiry; what your research reveals will provoke further thought. Both processes call for hard work. A good quality argument, supported by the best possible authorities, is the reward.


When thinking about your argument, start by considering the following:

  • What court is the case to be held in?
  • What is the case history?
  • What are the facts of the case?
  • What is the timeline of events?

All of these can be discerned from the moot problem itself.

Moot problem diagram

Moot problem PDF version

You should then list all the issues which arise, and the likely arguments for both sides. You have to select the best points to use and decide on the best order in which to present them.

Top tip: The moot problem will often list these issues for you, in the form of the points of appeal.

Try it yourself! Answer the four questions posed for the sample moots R v James and Smith and Rose v Tiger Motors plc:

  • What court is the case to be held in?
  • What is the case history?
  • What are the facts of the case?
  • What is the timeline of events?

Start by reading all the relevant statutory and case authorities, plus any other relevant articles.

The object of your research is very much to get your head around the legal issues which are raised by the moot question. You should then formulate the arguments which you will use in your oral submissions.

Further information can be found at

Organising your points

Points you will want to make during submissions will be both positive and negative in nature. Positive points are those which advance your own arguments. Negative points are put forward to rebut the submissions of your opponent.

Choosing points

If you have more points than you can hope to cover in the time available, be prepared to jettison the least important. Remember that the strength of your argument is not improved by adding weak points to strong ones.

Ordering points

A moot is an exercise in intellectual persuasion. The argument must be conducted in a coherent fashion, step by step. As a rule of thumb, it is advisable for you to put forward your positive points before your negative ones.

The best logical order for your points may become apparent only when your preparation is well advanced. The important thing is to be satisfied, before you complete your preparation, that your argument is as clear and compelling as you can make it.

Heads of Argument [HoA]

Once you have your points organised, you need to compose your Heads of Argument, sometimes also called Skeleton Arguments.

Heads of Argument are a summary of the principal points of submission you intend to make, plus the authorities you are intending to rely on during the moot itself. View a sample set of Heads of Argument here.

Submitting HoA
The Heads of Argument normally have to be exchanged with opposing mooters and sent to the judge a few days in advance of the moot. Most mooting competitions have set rules about when Heads of Arguments need to be exchanged. The principle behind exchange of Heads is that everyone involved in the moot know what will be argued on the day — the mooters can prepare their rebuttals, and judges have the opportunity to examine the points which the mooting teams are proposing to raise.

Opposing HoA
Once you have received your opponents' Heads of Argument, you should align your negative points to ensure they rebut your opponents' arguments effectively.

Top tip: You no longer have the ability to alter your own Skeleton Arguments at this stage, but you may still modify the focus of your submissions as a result of the exchange of the Heads of Argument.

Preparing your notes

Prepare notes of key points for your submissions, not a full speech.

A moot is not an exercise in speech-reading; instead it is all about persuading the court to accept your submissions. You will repeatedly be told that the art of advocacy is not that of reading a speech. It may be comforting when you are at the beginning of your mooting career to start by writing a speech, but an audience is rarely persuaded by someone who is merely reading off a sheet of paper! If your preparations are good, you should be able to make your submissions from notes, including any key phrases that will comfort you to have available to quote.

Top tips:

  • Make your notes as orderly and clear as possible
  • Ensure the structure of the argument is clear from the way the notes are set out
  • Use space generously so that what you have written is instantly readable.

Where your notes refer to a decision, include clear indications of the location of any passages that you may need to refer to, e.g. those you think the judge may ask you about. A useful way of holding this kind of information without cluttering the main note is to use a double page spread, reserving one side for the course of the argument and the names of cases, etc, and the other side for subsidiary material such as page references. Or find some other method that suits you.

Establishing your principal submissions

It is usually good practice to have at the beginning of your notes, a statement of the bare bones of your argument, in the form of some simple propositions that you can state at the outset (and dictate if the judge wants to write them down). These submissions should appear in your Heads of Argument and the judge can be directed to them in that document.

Your argument will be directed to establishing your submissions either cumulatively or in the alternative. For example, your submission might be:

  1. That no contract was made between the parties because the appellant's offer was withdrawn before the respondent's acceptance became effective.
  2. That even if the parties made an agreement they did not intend to create legal relations.
  3. That if there was a contract the damage suffered by the respondent is too remote and only normal damages are recoverable.

Top tip: Run it by a friend or tutor to see if they agree with your line of argument.


Scroll down to read about the main delivery tasks, or click on a link to jump directly to that section.

Dressing and behaving appropriately

You are in theory appearing in court; therefore you should dress and behave in a manner that reflects the order and solemnity of such a forum.


Some mooting competitions specify a dress code, otherwise wear formal attire:

  • Men should wear a black, charcoal or navy suit with a neutral-coloured collared shirt, a tie (keep that plain too), black socks and a pair of smart shoes.
  • Women should wear a black, charcoal or navy suit (a skirt is acceptable provided it is at least knee-length) with a neutral-coloured collared shirt or blouse and a pair of smart shoes. Heels are acceptable but remember that they must be comfortable for you too.
  • Avoid garish colours and designs, and decorum should be observed at all times. You will not earn mooting points flashing your belly-button piercing at the judge!

Stand up when the judge enters court and when he or she rises to leave court.

During the moot, only one counsel should be standing at a time (unless the judge indicates that he or she wants to address two counsels together). If the judge addresses you when you are seated, stand. If he or she addresses another counsel while you are on your feet, sit down until he or she is ready for you to resume.

Top tips:

  • Speak up: every judge is prima facie deaf!
  • Speak slowly
  • If the judge is taking notes, give him or her time to keep up with you
  • Adopt a pleasant, courteous manner, but not an obsequious one
  • Maintain eye contact with the court
  • It is best not to try to be funny
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets
  • Do not slouch; do not walk about; do not fiddle with your hair, watch, glasses, etc. In short, do nothing to distract the attention of the court from your argument.
Addressing the judge and counsel

The first thing you should note is the court you are appearing in as the courts in the UK adopt a range of different titles for judges depending on the position of the court within the hierarchy. See Chapters 4 and 5 of Slapper & Kelly's English Legal System for more on the structure and hierarchy of the courts. However as most moots are set within the House of Lords or Court of Appeal, the mooter's job here is simpler than that of a real-life counsel!

Directly addressing the judge

Say ‘My Lord’ or ‘My Lady’ (not ‘Sir’ nor ‘Your Lordship’ or ‘Your Ladyship’). For example, ‘My Lord, my next submission is…’.

Referring to the judge

Use ‘Your Lordship’ or ‘Your Ladyship’ in place of ‘you’. For example, ‘As Your Ladyship is no doubt aware…’ or ‘Would Your Lordship please refer to paragraph two…?’.

Other judges

Call them ‘Their Lordships’, ‘Her Ladyship’, ‘The Learned Judge’, ‘Lord Justices’, ‘The Master of the Rolls’, ‘Mr Justice Laddie’, ‘Lord Justice Bingham’, ‘the Lord Chief Justice’, and so on.

Top tip: You may drop either the title or the name for brevity on subsequent repetition, but be careful to remain respectful at all times.


Opposing counsel are ‘my learned friends’. Your own counsel colleague is ‘my learned friend’ or ‘my learned leader or junior’.

Introduction by the first mooter

Leading counsel for the appellant should rise when the judge indicates that he or she is ready, and:

Introduce counsel and the case

The usual formula is:

“May it please Your Lordship, I (adding your own name, if you are not yet known to the court) appear in this case with my learned friend Mr Willie Waffle for the appellant, and my learned friends Ms Mary Mumble and Mr Shouter Smith and appear for the respondent.”
The nature of the appeal

You should then state succinctly the nature of the appeal:

“My Lord, this an appeal against a conviction of murder on the ground that the trial judge, Mr Justice Obama, misdirected the jury in relation to the defence of diminished responsibility.”
The facts of the case

You should then outline the facts of the case, the decision being appealed from and the grounds of appeal. You may usefully pause from time to time during this introduction, to emphasise matters which you think significant for the case:

“Your Lordship will observe that when the appellant posted his letter of acceptance, the respondent had taken no steps to revoke his offer and, so far as the appellant knew, the offer was still open to acceptance.”

You should inform the court which points you will deal with and which will be left to your junior.

Submissions not opinions

Counsel advances arguments not opinions. When arguing points of law, always say, ‘I submit that…’ or ‘I suggest that…’ rather than ‘In my opinion…’ or ‘I think that…’.

Handling questions, suggestions and rulings

You should expect to be interrupted by the judge with questions, suggestions and sometimes rulings. Your ability to deal with interruptions from the bench is taken into account in assessing your performance.

Preparing for questions

This is another reason not to write a speech as a fully scripted presentation will not give you the flexibility to deal with such interventions without interrupting your flow, or you may find that in answering the question you end up repeating the same point when you come to it later within your speech. If your preparation is good, and your notes are well organised, you should be able to adapt your presentation to take into account any such judicial interventions.

Think first, speak later

Listen to the question, and think before you start answering the question. Quite often, especially when mooters are nervous, they blurt out the first words that come to their head when being asked a question, only to find that they cannot usefully complete a sentence using those first words without contradicting their submissions.

Responding to questions

Treat the judge's questions and suggestions with proper respect and appreciation:

“I am grateful to Your Ladyship for that suggestion, which I should like to adopt”

Do not hesitate to respond firmly when necessary, but always remember that you must respect the authority of the judge:

“The case Your Lordship mentions may at first sight seem to be against me, but I submit that it is readily distinguishable”

If you are obliged to submit to a ruling of the court on some point, the customary formula is ‘I am obliged’ (spoken with dignity and without resentment).

Top tip: Watch Lawbore's video tutorial on handling questioning here.

Citing authorities

Scroll down to read about the different authorities, or click on a link to go directly to that section.


You must refer to statutory provisions accurately. Sections are divided into sub-sections and further sub-divided into paragraphs and sub-paragraphs. Schedules (pronounced ‘shedules’) are divided into paragraphs and sub-paragraphs.


The formal method of citing cases is:

“…in the case of Smith and Jones, which is reported in the first volume of the Queen's Bench Reports for 2008 at page 666…”

In criminal cases in which the Crown is a party (R. v…) the correct formula is:

“The Crown against Clinton.”

But many judges do not object to a briefer, more informal style, especially if the case has already been previously mentioned:

“2008 one Queen's Bench Reports page 666”


“in the case of Clinton.”

Top tip: You should not abbreviate Queen's Bench to QB.


If the judge has a copy of the report, direct him or her clearly to any passage you wish to quote:

“the judgment of Lord Woolf at page 115, by the letter F, where His Lordship held,…”

Top tip: Watch the movement of the judge — allow him or her time to find the passage before you begin reading.

You will not have time to recite the facts of every case. But if the facts are crucial to the significance of the case, you must do so; and you must always be prepared to do so if the court requires it. If in doubt, ask:

“I cite this case simply for the principle of law stated by the court, but if your lordship wishes to be reminded of the facts…”

Top tip: Check out our Using cases skills guide to find out more about reading, understanding and citing cases.


Permission may be obtained to borrow reports from the Library for mooting purposes. Bring the appropriate volumes with you and arrange them in front of you in chronological order or in the order in which you intend to use them; and mark the passages you will refer to with slips of paper.

Read from the reports, not from your notes or from the casebooks. If possible, it would be advisable to have the Clerk hand a volume to the judge, open at the appropriate page, before you begin referring to the passage.

Authorities against you

You are there to assist the court and it is your duty to refer the court to a statutory provision or a decision which is against your case even if your opponent appears not to know of it.

Textbooks and articles

As writers of textbooks and articles are not, strictly speaking, authorities (unless they are dead and were rather eminent when alive, e.g. Professor J.C. Smith), the correct way to refer to a living author is to adopt his or her views as part of your argument. It is noted that nowadays courts are usually willing to be referred directly to views expressed in textbooks and periodical literature.

Concluding your argument

Remember to close your argument. Compared to a real courtroom, a moot is time-constrained, but you should still round off your submissions with a few short sentences which explain exactly what conclusion your team is asking the judge to arrive at.

You might begin your conclusion with something akin to:

“In conclusion My Lords,…”

and round it up with:

“For these reasons I ask that this appeal be allowed, the conviction of murder quashed and a conviction of manslaughter substituted.”


“…that this appeal be dismissed and the respondent awarded the costs of the appeal.”


Enter a mooting competition

Many universities run mooting competitions which are open to their students, and some make participation in the competitions compulsory for all students! At some institutions, students who are interested form mooting societies.

In recent years, there have also been inter-university mooting competitions; many of these are sponsored by large law chambers/firms, and carry prestigious and lucrative prizes.

Mooting Net lists a range of national and international mooting competitions.

Organise a mooting competition

Universities are always looking out for students to play an active role in the mooting process, as organisers as well as mooters. Try it — it can be fun and will also earn you lots of goodwill with your institution.

Scroll down to read about the different stages, or click on a link to jump directly to that section.


It is vital to get your organisation right in order for a mooting competition to run smoothly. Organising a moot competition takes a lot of time and effort, but if properly done can be extremely rewarding. Do not attempt to organise a moot competition unless you are prepared to put in the hard work, as a badly run competition will erode goodwill and your energy.


Most moot competitions adopt a knockout structure very similar to that adopted by many sports events, such as the FA Cup, or Wimbledon Tennis Championships. All teams are placed into a pyramidal draw, where the winners progress to the next round and the losers exit the competition. All winning teams are then paired up with another winning team to play the next round, and this carries on until there is one winning team left, who become the champions. This structure is fairly straightforward and readily understood due to its common usage. The main disadvantage of the knockout structure is that teams have to get it right at the outset as they do not get a second chance — a poor performance in the first round spells the end of the competition for them.

Hence, some mooting competitions have now adopted what could be termed the ‘Football World Cup’ structure, where teams are placed into groups in the preliminary stage. At this stage the teams moot against every other team in their group, and score points for wins. The teams with the highest points at the end of the preliminary rounds then progress to the quarterfinals, semifinals and final. Although this structure gives all teams the opportunity to moot more than once, be aware that it is also a lot more time and resource intensive — teams have to prepare for multiple moots within a short space of time, judges and rooms have to be found to accommodate the many moots and some students will drop out when they realise that preparing for a number of moots is hard work!

Rules and procedures

Having decided on the structure you then have to devise a set of rules and procedures for the competition. Download an example of a ‘Football World Cup’ structure competition.

Moot questions

Here are some sample moot questions to help you get started:

R v James
Martin James was convicted of the murder of Laurence Giggs and sentenced to life imprisonment at Stokepool Crown Court. The facts disclosed at his trial were that he and Mr Giggs were members of Stokepool University's white-water-rafting team. They were widely regarded as the best two members of the team, and as such rivalry to become team leader between James and Giggs was intense. On the day in question, James and Giggs were the only two persons on board a small raft they had taken out to survey the white water rapids at Crescent Falls…

Download full question

Smith and Rose v Tiger Motors plc
The Stoke-On-Trent Motor Show is the largest motor show in the United Kingdom to be held on an annual basis. In 2005, Tiger Motors plc was allocated a stand in the motor show very near to the centre of the exhibition hall. The company placed one of their new models, the XX9, on display on the stand. On the final day of the show, Mick Hugh, the managing director of Tiger Motors plc, started up the XX9 to demonstrate the tone of its engine noise to an interested customer. Unfortunately he failed to notice that the car had been left in gear and the car lurched forward and hit Sarah Smith, aged 6…

Download full question

R v Devagne
Deborah Devagne, aged 12, had been suffering from an inoperable malignant brain tumour for 6 months. Although she was receiving significant amounts of medication to help with her pain, she was still, in the terminal stages of her life, suffering considerably. All other curative treatments had ceased and she was being nursed at home by her parents. Following her prolonged illness, Daniel Devagne, Deborah's father, felt that neither he nor his daughter could cope any longer with her pain and suffering, and he suffocated her with a pillow…

Download full question

Top tip: You can find more sample moot questions at Mooting Net. Or use questions from past years of the ESU/Essex Court Chambers National Mooting Competition.

Share your mooting videos

Use our facebook page to share your own mooting videos.



  1. Make sure you have read and understood the rules and regulations for the moot you are competing in.
  2. Allow sufficient time to research your argument.
  3. When you receive your opponents' Heads of Argument, align your negative points to ensure they rebut your opponents' arguments effectively.
  4. Prepare notes of key points for your submissions, not a full speech.
  5. Test your principal submissions [link to principal submissions] on a friend or tutor to see if they agree with your line of argument.
  6. Do nothing to distract the attention of the court from your argument.
  7. When handling questions, listen to the question, and think before you start answering.
  8. When citing authorities, watch the movement of the judge – allow him or her time to find the passage before you begin reading.
  9. If in doubt, ask whether the court wishes to be reminded of certain facts.
  10. Enjoy yourself!


David Pope and Daniel Hill's podcast on effective mooting and advocacy

ESU/Essex Court Chambers National Mooting Competition

European Law Court Moot Competition

European Law Moot Court Competition video

Lawbore's Introduction to Mooting PDF

Lawbore's Mooting video tutorial

London Universities Mooting Shield Competition

Mooting Net

OUP and BPP National Mooting Competition