Moot court is a co-curricular 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 simulated proceedings before an appellate court, arbitral tribunal, or international dispute resolution body. These are different from mock trials that involve simulated jury trials or bench trials. 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 moots 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. Ancillary issues pertaining to jurisdiction, standing, choice of law, and remedies 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 or two of rebuttal and even surrebuttal. 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 court competitions
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 Lawyers/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.
For the 2019/20 international moots season, many competitions such as the Jessup, Frankfurt, and International Criminal Court were cancelled due to Covid-19. Some competitions, however, such as Price, Vis, and Vis East, hosted the oral rounds via online platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. With international travel still largely restricted late into 2020, all major competitions adopted the virtual format for 2020/21 as well.
List of notable competitions
|Competition||Established||Class||Primary subject matter||Record annual participation (year)||Location of international finals||National or regional rounds||Pre-moots||Most (international) championships|
|Philip C Jessup||1960 (1968 for international rounds; no rounds in 2020)||Major/grand slam||Public international law||645 teams (2017)||Washington D.C.||Yes||No||University of Sydney (5)|
|Willem C Vis||1993||Major/grand slam||International commercial arbitration||379 teams (2019); 387, online (2021)||Vienna||No||Yes||University of Ottawa (3)|
|Price Media Law||2007||Major/grand slam||International human rights law||140 teams (2012)||Oxford||Yes||No||Singapore Management University (4)|
|International Criminal Court||2005 (2007 for international rounds; no rounds in 2020)||Major/grand slam||International criminal law||112 teams (2016)||The Hague||Yes||No||* Singapore Management University (3) |
* Leiden University (3)
|Lachs Space Law Moot||1992 (1993 for international rounds)||Major/grand slam||Space law||74 teams (2017)||Varies||Yes||No||* George Washington University (3) |
* National Law School of India University (3)
|Frankfurt Investment Arbitration||2007 (no rounds in 2020)||Major/grand slam||International investment arbitration||66 teams (2017)||Frankfurt||Yes||Yes||University of Miami (2)|
|Fletcher||2016||International||International insolvency law||31 teams (2021)||Varies||Qualification by written submissions||No||Singapore Management University (2)|
|Oxford Intellectual Property Law||2003 (no rounds in 2020)||International||Intellectual property law||66 teams (2018)||Oxford||Qualification by written submissions||No||Queensland University of Technology (3)|
|Sarin Air Law||2010||International||Aviation law||41 teams (2018)||Varies||Yes||No||?|
|Foreign Direct Investment International Arbitration||2008||International||Investor-state dispute settlement||Varies||Yes||No||Murdoch University (2)|
|LAWASIA||2005||Regional||International commercial arbitration||41 teams (2018)||Varies||Yes (only Malaysia)||No||Singapore Management University (5)|
|Red Cross IHL||2003 (2004 for international rounds; no rounds in 2020)||Regional||International humanitarian law||120 teams (2019)||Hong Kong||Yes||No||Victoria University of Wellington (2)|
|Nuremberg||2014 (no rounds in 2020)||International||International criminal law||160 teams (2019)||Nuremberg||Qualification by written submissions||No||* Maastricht University (3)|
|International Maritime Law Arbitration||2000||International||International maritime law||34 teams (2020)||Varies||No||No||University of Queensland (9)|
|John Jackson WTO||2002||International||World Trade Organization law||99 teams (2018)||Geneva||Yes||No||University of Melbourne (3)|
|WTO/FTA (Asian WTO)||2010 (2015 for international rounds)||Regional||World Trade Organization law||35 teams (2017)||Seoul||Qualification by written submissions||No||* Seoul National University (1) |
* Singapore Management University (1)
|Asian Law Students' Association||2008 (no rounds in 2020)||Regional||Varies||44 teams (2018)||Varies||Qualification by written submissions||No||Singapore Management University (2)|
|African Human Rights||1992||Regional||Human rights in Africa||Varies within Africa||No||No||* University of Pretoria (5)|
* University of Cocody (5)
|Asia Cup||1999 (no rounds in 2020)||Regional||Public international law||40 teams (2011)||Tokyo||Qualification by written submissions||No||National University of Singapore (6)|
|European Human Rights Moot Court Competition||2012||Regional||European Convention of Human Rights||No||No|
|Mandela World Human Rights||2009||Minor||International human rights law||50 teams||Pretoria||Yes||No||Norman Manley Law School (3)|
|Hague Choice of Court Convention||2014||Minor||Private international law||12 teams (2015)||Varies||Yes||No||Singapore Management University (1)|
Most number of international championships in a season
- 5: Singapore Management University, 2014/15 (Asia Cup, Hague Convention, LawAsia, Vis East, ICC)
- 5: Singapore Management University, 2016/17 (Fletcher, Frankfurt, LawAsia, Price, Asian LSA)
- 4: National University of Singapore, 2000/01 (Asia Cup, Lachs, Maritime, Jessup)
- 4: National University of Singapore, 2016/17 (Asia Cup, Air Law, Maritime, Private Law)
- 3: Singapore Management University, 2015/16 (Price, ICC, WTO/FTA)
- 3: Leiden University, 2012/13 (ICC, ELMC, Telders)
- 3: National University of Singapore, 2014/15 (DM Harish, Jean Pictet, Maritime)
Most number of international championship finals in a season
- 9: Singapore Management University, 2015/16 (WTO/FTA, Private Law, Maritime, Asia Cup, Vis East, Vis, Price, IHL, ICC)
- 8: Singapore Management University, 2014/15 (Hague Convention, Asia Cup, LawAsia, Vis East, Vis, Frankfurt, Price, ICC)
- 6: Singapore Management University, 2016/17 (LawAsia, Fletcher, Frankfurt, Price, ICC, Asian LSA)
- 6: National University of Singapore, 2016/17 (Asia Cup, Air Law, Maritime, Pan Asian Human Rights, Private Law, HSF Competition Law)
Most number of major or grand slam international championships in a season
- 2: University of Buenos Aires, 2015/16 (Jessup, Vis)
- 2: National University of Singapore, 2000/01 (Jessup, Lachs)
- 2: Singapore Management University, 2014/15 (ICC, Vis East)
- 2: Singapore Management University, 2015/16 (ICC, Price)
- 2: Singapore Management University, 2017/18 (Frankfurt, Price)
- 2: National Law University, Delhi, 2013/14 (ICC, Lachs)
Most number of major or grand slam international championship finals in a season
- 5: Singapore Management University, 2014/15 (Frankfurt, ICC, Price, Vis East, Vis)
- 4: Singapore Management University, 2015/16 (ICC, Price, Vis East, Vis)
- 3: Singapore Management University, 2016/17 (Frankfurt, ICC, Price)
Teams that have successfully defended a major or grand slam international championship
- Singapore Management University, 2014/15 and 2015/16 (ICC)
- Singapore Management University, 2015/16 and 2016/17 (Price)
Domestic moot court competitions
List of notable competitions
- Ames Moot Court Competition
- English Speaking Union Moot
- London Universities Mooting Shield
- The Laskin Moot
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 style of a moot will often vary depending in which jurisdiction it is to be heard. 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. 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.
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). 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.
- Mock trial
- Model United Nations
- Mootness, which has a precise meaning in United States law that is quite different from United Kingdom usage
- Pattinson, Shaun D.; Kind, Vanessa (2017-09-12). "Using a moot to develop students' understanding of human cloning and statutory interpretation". Medical Law International. 17 (3): 111–133. doi:10.1177/0968533217726350. PMC 5598875. PMID 28943724.
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- Ganz, Kian. "Mooting Premier League is back: MPL 7 sees Nalsar, UILS, NLS, NLIU lead after strong 2016 start". www.legallyindia.com.
- Note: competitions that went fully online because of COVID-19 not inclusive
- "ILSA". ILSA. Archived from the original on 2010-09-15. Retrieved 2012-04-21.
- "Record Number of Teams Set to Compete in Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition - White & Case LLP International Law Firm, Global Law Practice". www.whitecase.com.
- "Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot list". Cisg.law.pace.edu. Retrieved 2012-04-21.
- "Welcome | Price Media Law Moot Court Programme". Pricemootcourt.socleg.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2012-04-21.
- "ICC-Trial Competition". ICC-Trial Competition. Archived from the original on 2012-03-13. Retrieved 2012-04-21.
- "lachs winners » International Institute of Space Law". iislweb.org.
- "investmentmoot.org". investmentmoot.org. Retrieved 2012-04-21.
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- "About the competition".
- "Finalists for the 16th Oxford International IP Moot Court Announced". 23 January 2018.
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- "Welcome to LAWASIA". lawasiamoot.org.
- "12th Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Moot 2014".
- Court, Nuremberg Moot. "Home: Nuremberg Moot Court". nuremberg-moot.de.
- "Nuremberg Moot Court". www.facebook.com.
- "International Maritime Law Arbitration". Law.murdoch.edu.au. 2012-02-08. Retrieved 2012-04-21.
- "Final report" (PDF). elsa.org.
- "African Human Rights Moot Court Competition Retrieved June 24, 2011". Archived from the original on September 15, 2011. Retrieved June 24, 2011.
- "Records of Asia Cup 2011". International Law Student Exchange Council. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- "European human rights moot court competition". www.coe.int. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-02-01. Retrieved 2016-01-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-05-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- hermes (14 April 2017). "SMU edges out NUS in Sydney moot contest".
- National First Amendment Moot Court Competition.
- "Mooting Net - How to Moot I". Archived from the original on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
- "Mooting Net - How to Moot I". Archived from the original on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
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