Saturday, August 29, 2009

BPP Registration Drinks (Events dear boy, events!)

A very short post to invite any readers of this blog who will be starting at BPP on the 7th to a drinking session after registration. Anyone who is interested should e-mail me at:

barorbust at googlemail dot com

I look forward to meeting you on the 7th. I am in one of the lower numbered groups so will be registering form 11:30 onwards.

See you then


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pupillage Interview

As some readers may recall, I only made the one application for pupillage this year to a non-olpas set. The Chambers in question is very respected in its field and I was unsure whether or not I would be invited for an interview.

You can imagine my joy and surprise on Saturday when I found an e-mail from said chambers thanking me for my application and that could I attend an interview on Wednesday. Unfortunately I couldn't express my happiness fully at this point as I was in the Apple store in Cambridge, but it is possible that I may have performed a small jig very similar to this.

After spending a small fortune on Tuesday buying a very nice new suit and dropping into the careers centre at BPP for a quick chat, I arrived on Wednesday eager to impress and desperate to make a good impression. This of course was well hidden under a professional and calm exterior (or at least that was the plan).

I know that analysing interviews and worrying about them is as useless as doing the same with exams, however for the information and edification of readers here are my thoughts.

The advocacy exercise went okay, however I didn't feel as though my answers were particularly good. I held up well under the pressure but it didn't flow as well as I would have liked. The questions afterwards went very well with good strong answers that made reference to my work experience and achievements. I am unsure as to whether I will get a call back, I am hoping that the answers will make up for the slightly less impressive advocacy exercise and warrant another go.

I should find out next week sometime all being well. I am applying to another three non-olpas sets in the next couple of weeks, and if nothing else this has been a useful experience. Another plus is that I obviously have something of worth on my CV and hopefully should be able to replicate this success at the paper stage in the future.

I hope that all is well, and I hope that everyone else is looking forward to starting the BVC in just over a weeks time as much as I am.



Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BPP Mixing Event

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending a pre-course mixing event at BPP. The actual presentation part of the evening was not particularly useful, however I did not really go for this reason. I went because I thought that it would be an ideal opportunity to:

  1. Meet some people who would be doing the BVC with me and start to make some friends;
  2. Enjoy the hospitality of the law school (short for drink the free booze);
  3. Pick up a few freebies (pens, sticky pads, all the usual crap you get at those sort of functions).

I am very pleased to say that I had an absolutely fantastic time and managed to accomplish all three tasks. I met lots of very nice people, I came away with some new pens and sticky pads, I drank a decent amount of the free wine (chardonnay was okay, Merlot not so great) and then went down the pub on the corner of Red Lion Street and continued drinking with my new found friends.

There is a slight danger that I may end up spending a little too much time at the pub, however I am sure that if I think about the amount of money I am spending on the BVC I will be spurred back into action. It is maybe a little bit sad, and I know that Lost thinks I am strange and a glutton for punishment for choosing BPP, but I am really looking forward to starting in September. All I have to do now is think which of the very worthy pro bono opportunities I want to get involved if FRU doesn't provide enough work.

All the best


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Re-visiting Rape

I am always interested to see that people have commented on my posts, and it seems that there have been a number of replies concerning the post on Harriet Harman’s views on rape.

It seems that most people would agree that trying to set to set arbitrary targets is not the solution to the problem of low rape convictions. There does seem to have been some disagreement as to the issue of directions by the Judge, a topic which I did not address as fully as that of targets.

In the comments section Marjorie replied:

You said "Firstly it goes without saying that rape is an horrendous and vile crime. Women (or men for that matter), do not "ask for it", and the victim is left seriously damaged."

Unfortunately one of the reasons that rape convictions are so low is because that *doesn't* go without saying. There are still many people who think that women who wear revealing clothing, drink or who have any sexual history are 'asking for it' or contributing towards the attack.

Firstly I stand by my statement. Rape is an abhorrent crime and no one, male or female, asks for it. This is a statement of fact rather than general opinion, and it would the brave and misguided person who argues otherwise.

Marjorie then goes on to comment:

For a Judge to give directions which specifically remind the jury that wearing attractive clothes, drinking, flirting or having had sex in the past do *not* constitute consent or allow consent to be presumed are wholly reasonable. *

Let us picture the scene. A Jury is listening to the closing speeches of the prosecution and the defence after having all the evidence placed before them. The prosecution have made the point that just because the girl was drinking, wearing revealing clothing, and had flirted with the guy, did not mean that she would have consented to the sex. The defence on the other hand put it simply that the defendant was out drinking, he flirted with a girl who reciprocated, and they had consensual sex.

Is it then fair for the Jury to be addressed by the Judge who includes in his closing statement an endorsement of the prosecution’s closing speech?

The real crux of the matter here is how do we secure more rape convictions? The differing opinions are analogous to the raging debate on equality. Do we aim for equality of opportunity, or equality of outcome? The target and direction camp are similar to the equality of outcome proponents. The line goes “There is a problem, and the way to deal with it is to alter the process so that we achieve the desired outcome. Therefore as we have a difficulty with perception surrounding rape cases we should weight the process in favour of the complainant”.

This suffers from a huge flaw, especially when applied to the justice system, in that Lady Justice is blind. There should not be an altering of the system to try and achieve a desired outcome one way or the other. The only objective should be that the evidence and trial are presented to the jury in a manner which is fair to both sides. It is submitted that the only fair way to achieve a higher conviction rate is:

1) Substantially increase funding and training so that every area has a committed sex crimes unit with specially trained police officers who know how to deal with complaints properly;
2) Spend more money on educating the public that no one asks to be raped and that behaviour such as flirting, drinking, and promiscuity does not necessarily mean that the sex was consensual, or that the rape was in some way deserved;
3) Work with the media to move away from the myth that rape is only ever committed by strangers down dark alleyways.

The first point will do the most to improve the number of rape convictions, closely followed by the second. However the real problem with rape is that it is primarily a crime where it is one person’s word against another. There will always be a problem in proving rape, but at least with the above system we stand a chance of improving things without damaging the impartiality justice system. I don’t think the point can be better illustrated then by this quote from Blackstone:

“Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”

There was also another comment from Recorta:

Rape and perceptions of rape are still a BIG problem regardless of what BoB believes is obvious. *

What I believe to be obvious, as stated above, is that rape is a terrible crime and that this goes without saying. I did not at any point claim that rape is not a big problem.

A standard set of guidance to be issued to the jury prior to the trial's start would probably be the best way to avert the sort of problem you seem to be envisaging, where after a defence has been made a judge might appear to subtly undermine it by giving 'guidance'. *

So under this formulation the Judge gets the boot into the defence’s case before any evidence is given. The subtext to any direction such as this would be “I totally disagree with anything the defence will submit on these points and so should you”. Again this is interfering at the wrong end of the process.

I hope that this has been helpful to state my position clearer and if anyone would like to express a different point of view then I would be more than happy to put their reply up as a guest post. Please let me know at the e-mail address to the right.

All the best


*All comments are reproduced from the comment list found below, and are unchanged except for some spelling mistakes.

A Shameless Plug...

As some of the more observant readers of this blog may have noticed there is a new picture at the top of the right hand column. If you click on the picture you will find yourself whisked away to the All About Law website, a very useful source of information on all things legal including lots of careers advice.

I certainly recommend having a look whether you want to be a Barrister or a Solicitor, it caters for both sides of the profession.

All the best


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Court Observation

Yesterday I was able to attend the Social Security Tribunals part of the ratification process to become a social security representative for the Free Representation Unit. Not only is this a very much needed service it is also a fantastic way to utilise those skills I have already learnt and develop my advocacy skills further.
The hearing was fairly short and I think the main lesson from the experience was that a well prepared written submission with good medical evidence is so important in appeals against a decision to not award incapacity benefits. This particular case was pretty much decided before the appellant had even entered the tribunal.
I now have only the final part of the process to complete which is an office induction, where I can also sign out my first case. Unfortunately the induction on next Monday and the next two are fully booked, even though I doubt all of those who have put their names down will either have completed the observation, or possibly even turn up. Unfortunately you can book the induction without proving you have completed the observation. This is annoying as I am very keen on starting as soon as possible.
The other part which doesn't make sense is that there only seems to be 8 places per induction. The induction day, however, is split into two sessions. The volunteer can pick which one to turn up to (morning or evening). Now they hypothetically could have to induct all eight volunteers in the morning, and then would have none in the evening. If they can accommodate eight people at a session (which they must have to as that is a possibility), why don't they just allow eight in the morning and eight in the evening and have 16 places per day?
In other news where I am not whinging, I have my Middle Temple membership card, and I have been suit shopping in some of the rather nice legal outfitters in and around Holborn and Chancery Lane. I have found a very nice navy blue herring bone three piece which is very tempting and I am going to try it on to tomorrow before the BPP pre-BVC mixing event. If anyone else is going let me know and I will look out for you.
All the best

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Crime doesn't pay. There's no future in it." Oh really?

A while ago I chanced upon a blawg and left what I now agree was a rather rash, and possibly rude, statement (hey no ones perfect). Although the manner in which I made the point was incorrect I still stand by the point. I was subsequently asked by the blawg's author Richard Murtagh to elaborate upon the point. Unfortunately something always seemed to get in the way, but Richard has posted his argument here.

I am sure that any readers of this blawg will be more than welcome to comment on what he has written. Unfortunately I did not realise this until I sent off what was supposed to be my opening statement so the text below is not strictly in response to the arguments made. I will do this later. However I will make a single point that as you will see I have grappled with the issues rather than resorting to the rather base tactic of attacking my adversary's character. So here is my answer to why Criminal Law does matter, and whether or not it pays depends on principle and the definition of what pay is.

Why the Criminal Bar is still a place for the “aspiring independent advocate”.

As the economic situation in this country continues to grow gloomier and gloomier, it is clear that public spending will decrease across the board, regardless of which political party triumphs at the next general election. This is a process which has already had a far reaching and profound effect on those parts of the Bar which rely on legal aid work and it is a generally held opinion (also held by the author of this blog), that the Criminal Bar is no longer a realistic destination for the “aspiring independent advocate”. This article will seek to challenge this assumption and show that for the true advocate, the Criminal Bar is the destination of choice.

Firstly it is clear that the remuneration for a Criminal barrister has fallen in recent years. On a recent mini pupillage with a highly respected specialist criminal set in London I was informed that the average junior of between one and two years call after pupillage will expect to achieve a gross sum of around £40000 per annum. When various deductions are taken into account this would amount to around £25000 per annum. Now this is certainly not a stellar sum by any means but whether or not it is sufficient to make the criminal bar worthwhile depends on two things. The importance of high earnings over job satisfaction, and what we compare this salary against.

To deal with the latter point first, this sum is unquestionably meagre compared to the fantastic amounts achievable at the Chancery and Commercial Bar. Indeed, as shown by the Times this week a new pupil at Essex Court Chambers will receive a pupillage award of £60000. But it is illogical to compare these two parts of the profession. One is paid by either exceptionally rich individuals or large, multi-million pound companies, and the other is paid out of the public purse. It is also important to remember that £25000 is still a sustainable wage. Many graduates will be on comparable sums during these early years, the only difference being that junior barristers will have larger debts to pay due to the cost of qualifying. This however is an argument for lowering qualification costs (a point on which I think most would agree), rather than avoiding the Criminal Bar.

As a side issue it is also important to mention that many chambers are now diversifying into other areas closely associated with the criminal bar, and with a large amount of success. In this way a skilled and talented advocate can expect to achieve a much higher rate of remuneration.

When it comes to the former point I believe that the argument can be stated no more simply than this:

If representing clients in court using the skill of oral advocacy is your reason for wishing to come to the Bar, then there is no better destination than the Criminal Bar. Nowhere else at the Bar does courtroom advocacy play a bigger part in a barrister’s career than at the Criminal Bar.

If your desire is to grapple with intricate areas of law all day and earn astronomical sums form the start of your career, then clearly it is not. Other reasons why it is still an attractive choice include the palpable sense of helping people in what will most likely be one of the most bewildering, terrifying, and important moments in their life. It is also a vocation which repeatedly tests the mettle and skills of an advocate right from the first appearance in court. Quick thinking, a keen sense of tactics, and mastery of the facts must be utilised in the high pressure environment of the court, at all times knowing that the very liberty of your client depends upon your performance.

And this final point is at the crux of why the Criminal Bar must remain an attractive prospect for the bright and talented. The right to liberty is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, as is the right to a fair trial. Yet in this era of supposed importance for human rights we have seen an executive and legislature that have been anything but respectful. Anti-terrorism legislation has sought to disregard the doctrine of habeas corpus, holding suspects for days on end without charge and no recourse to legal advice. The state is ever more intrusive and seeks to hold vast sums of information about our private lives, and up until recently planned to make the owning of an ID card compulsory.

Another shocking development on which I have already written is the reported wishes of Harriet Harman to set successful rape conviction targets for prosecutors and police officers. The idea of an officer of the state being pressured to hit a target when there are questions of justice and fairness involved is repugnant and dangerous. It is for these reasons and more that the Criminal Bar remains, and needs to remain, a place for “aspiring independent advocate”.

When the Criminal Bar is considered from this perspective it is clear that for those who aspire to a career of protecting rights it is an area which can provide the opportunity to do such. I am sure that there may be some counter arguments presented on the nature of criminal work but I will save my observations on these for my rebuttal I have graciously been allowed. This also leads me onto the final limb of my argument:

Is the lack of money involved in criminal work so bad that it should deter all but the desperate from applying?

As explained above although the money may not bring you untold wealth it is enough to live, and to suggest it is not fails to take into consideration the fact that many live on a lot less. However the question is what is important to the individual. If a person claims that the protection of rights and providing representation to those who need it desperately is the most important aspect of being a barrister, then these principles should come before monetary considerations over and above what is needed to live. As stated above I submit that the Criminal Bar is an ideal and important arena to put these principles into practise.



Friday, August 7, 2009

Harriet Harman: Threat to Justice

A review of the offence of rape was expected to commence in the near future after the cabinet signed off the proposed terms of reference. This has not happened because Harriet Harman (who is currently care taking for Gordon Brown), has decided that the review would not go far enough. According to the Times:

"Ms Harman is understood to want a more radical overhaul of the law which could include targets for prosecutors and police to secure more convictions."

The full story can be found here.

There have also been suggestions that judges should be required to give directions to the jury in order to dispel myths surrounding rape, such as only strangers are rapists and women that were wearing tarty clothes at the time were "asking for it".


Firstly it goes without saying that rape is an horrendous and vile crime. Women (or men for that matter), do not "ask for it", and the victim is left seriously damaged. However, in the desire to see more rapists successfully prosecuted, it is submitted that these developments are both misguided and dangerous to justice.

One of the most repugnant parts of this story is the idea of setting "targets" for prosecutors and police officers. Apart from the fact that for all of Labour's target setting they have still failed to improve any of our public services, the use of targets in this sphere of public life is immensely dangerous.

Take for example a CPS employed barrister. They are, under this proposal, set a target for the number of rape convictions they must achieve. It is getting near to the next reporting period and they have not hit their target. A rape case then lands on their desk which they then prosecute. With the need to hit their target and the thought of the annual review they will be soon subjected to, will the interests of justice be foremost in this prosecutor's mind? How is an advocate possibly able to remain impersonal and fair in such a situation? It is submitted that this would create an unacceptable conflict of interests, and subsequently the Criminal Justice System and the rights of defendants will suffer.

This problem is even more acute when viewed one level down and one considers the affect that this will have on the police officer assigned to the case. With redundancies being made throughout police forces the pressure to achieve results will be even greater. This is particularly alarming when we consider the role of the police in an investigation, that of collecting evidence. As we have seen in other example such as the NHS, this pressure to meet targets has seen false information, massaging of statistics, and ultimately people dying in corridors on trolleys. Adding pressure through the need to hit targets for successful prosecutions for rape allegations will ultimately lead to unfair practices in the collection of evidence.

I am also unconvinced as to how a Judge can give a direction to the jury of the type suggested that would still be impartial and fair to the defendant. If it is a main arm of the defence that the woman was drunk (as was the defendant), and that she came onto him, is it then fair for the Judge to give a direction along the lines of "Just because a woman is drunk does not mean she will be more promiscuous or open to sexual advances".

I welcome comment and discussion on these suggestions, and hope that you are all well.



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

And so it begins...kind of.

Well here we are in the middle of what can only be described as a terrible summer (barbecue summer my left foot), uni is finished, and I am waiting to start the BVC.

With only a month to go until the first day of the BVC it is now becoming apparent that I need to start preparing properly, some of which will be fun (mostly the buying stuff), and some not so fun. These include:

  1. Reading the pre-reading now available on BPP's blackboard site;
  2. Going through all of my core legal subjects textbooks and revising the areas which BPP say you should know before starting the course (basically everything);
  3. Buying new suits, shirts, and ties for the advocacy, negotiation, and conferencing elements of the course;
  4. Buy a laptop and other stationery for my home study area;
  5. Buy an annual zone 1-6 travel card.

I have so far completed most of section one including the legal research and case preparation manual, and the what I should know before arriving at BPP section. Tomorrow I will begin section 2 so that I am ready to hit the ground running come the 7th of September. The good stuff including buying some new suits will have to wait for a while unfortunately. Something that couldn't wait was the £14795 that I had to cough up yesterday, ouch.

I am also thinking about starting to create a list of all achievements and experience ready to construct a new CV ready for two non-OLPAS pupillages that ask for a CV. Which neatly leads me onto explaining why the last post made it onto my blog (other than for reasons of insomnia).

As you can see below I went climbing in Wales last week and I did indeed end up doing the rather dangerous and very high traverse starting at Crib Goch. While I was clinging onto a rock 980 metres above sea level, absolutely petrified and scared witless, I could think of nothing but getting down of the mountain and finding the nearest public house.

However on reflection I have realised that I might be able to use this in an interview or on an application form under the heading "challenge overcome " or "triumph over adversity". I am wondering if it might be just the kind of standout detail that would catch the eye of an OLPAS form weary barrister as different and interesting? Maybe this is the kind of original, outside of the box, blue sky thinking I need to be employing when writing applications? (Maybe I should stop asking rhetorical questions and using stupid corporate speak?)

I am going to post on some legal/political topics soon, the first being why Harriet Harman is misguided, and secondly on the Assisted Suicide question. Until then,


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

As good a time as any...

Why is it that when you particularly need to get your head down and have a decent night sleep the state of blissful slumber steadfastly refuses to materialise?

I am sat here, my poor neglected readers (yes all two of you), totally unable to sleep. This is more of a problem than it would normally be as my friend will be arriving at 05:00 to pick me up in the car for our day trip to Minx land. Yes I am going to Wales to climb Snowdon, although whether we take the Pyg track (fairly easy) or the far more treacherous Crib Goch ridge depends upon the weather. Below is a video of the ridge on a nice day.

I am not the world's biggest fan of heights but I am sure it will be exhilarating once I am up there.
In other news I am finally a graduate, and in possession of a rather nice piece of paper that tells me I have been awarded a 2.i. I was also personally mentioned twice in the Chancellors speech during the graduation ceremony.
I have also, in the never ending quest to improve and strengthen my CV and skills, attended the FRU Social Security Training Day, which was a little boring towards the end, but generally interesting. It was also a useful exercise in meeting new people who will be on my course in September. I have completed the exam and await the result. All being well this will come soon so that I can at least have one case under my belt before the start of the BVC.
Last but not least, I also managed to fire off my first and only pupillage application to a non-oplas set. I am not sure what to expect but the Chambers specialises in an area of law in which I am familiar and have courtroom advocacy experience from my pro bono work. We shall see I suppose.
I hope that everyone is well, and that your applications meet with success. All the best,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Food glorious food...

Despite previous reservations voiced by some over the quality of food at Middle Temple, the dinner laid on for this years scholars was indeed glorious. Foie Gras, Sea Bass, a strawberry something for dessert, and a superb cheese board were accompanied by a rather splendid selection of wines and rounded off by coffee and a rather decent port.
I had a very interesting and enjoyable time talking to the barristers around me and the scholar that was sitting opposite. I also had the great pleasure of meeting Lost London Law Student, who has also blogged about his experiences at last nights dinner.
One particularly useful piece of information from last night was an answer to whether or not I should include my political experience on pupillage applications. I have for the past two years stood as a local election candidate for one of the big two parties (not monster raving loony party as some may think), although never in a winnable seat, only as a paper candidate.
Now, I am at this moment applying to some of the chambers which do not subscribe to the Pupillage Portal and have later cut off dates. One of these chambers specialises in housing, property, and public law issues that arise from housing and property. Both of these areas include a lot of dealing with local authorities and councils. Because of my involvement in local elections I have a very good knowledge of which council (local or county) has authority over which decisions within the area, and how the councils come to a decision on issues such as planning etc.
I am however slightly worried whether or not political involvement is a good thing. The QC sat next to me had this advice:
  • Generally this type of involvement will be looked upon favourably as it shows confidence, ability to talk to people, specialist knowledge etc;
  • Some chambers may take against you depending upon the colour of your politics, for example a heavily human rights orientated social issues driven set may reject you if you are a Conservative;
  • Chambers may be worried that you have ambitions to be an MP and will clear off in five years, thus not making a particularly good investment of time and money;
  • The best thing to do would be to put it in but not mention which party, and include a line stating that you have no future political plans.

I am not sure how many other people will find this useful but there may be some who do.

The evening finished with Lost and I heading over to the Olde Bank of England on Fleet Street with a rather drunk and slightly objectionable fellow scholar who also did not fancy finishing the night drinking lemon barley water (?) in the smoking room. The opportunities to talk to other people were limited anyway as all three of us were male, which held no interest for the mainly older male members of the Inn that were still there.

So all in all a brilliant night, and a wonderful way to start the next phase of my journey to the bar and beyond. All the best


Thursday, May 28, 2009

They think it's all over...

Well that's because it is. I am, as of yesterday afternoon, a graduand (I have no idea why it is called that), free from the shackles of my LLB and looking forward to a chilled summer in preparation for the BVC.

With a bit of spare time I hope to be blogging a bit more frequently, so watch this space.

All the best


Monday, May 18, 2009

God bless Lord Diplock

Yes, after all that waiting I am the proud recipient of a Diplock Scholarship. Sorry to everyone for the tantrum in the last post.

I would like to say that I am off to toast Lord Diplock, unfortunately an employment law exam prevents me from doing so :(

All the best


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Where is it????

Why has my letter not turned up from Middle Temple yet?
Why has my letter not turned up from Middle Temple yet?
Why has my letter not turned up from Middle Temple yet?
Why has my letter not turned up from Middle Temple yet?

I am very angry!

Law and Med Coursework

I am sorry for the recent radio silence, and I realise that it is slightly unattractive to boast about a good mark, but boy oh boy does 72% for a 30 credit unit sure take a bit of pressure off for my final exams.

I think that my Discrimination law exam went okay on Tuesday, just have to keep plugging away at my revision for Employment law and Family Law.

All the best to everyone else who is taking exams at the moment, be back soon...


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

And the award for the most ridiculous OLPAS question goes to.....

"How do you hope to contribute to your future chambers?"

What an utter load of nonsensical, totally pointless, rage inducing twaddle! Other than I hope to work hard, bring in more business through a good reputation, not be a w****r, and not bring chambers into disrepute, what the hell is this question for?

The only possible explanation I can think of is that it is there for people who have relatives that own a business or are partners in a firm of solicitors who can promise to send more work chamber's way, which has nothing to do with the calibre of the applicant.

In other news I think that my scholarship interview went very well, and I have an Inn sponsor who seems to be very nice.

All the best

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mooting Tips

Having read Lost's post (if you have not then please follow the link on the right hand side), I thought that I would take up the offer and collaborate on this most worthy of projects. As a quick disclaimer I do not profess to being an expert, nor are these points to be considered sacred cows, they are purely my opinion and as such are open to discussion, debate, and dare I say it disagreement.

I agree with most of what Lost has said, although I don't bother with a contents page. I think this is because I use a slightly different system with my tabs. When I refer to tabs I mean those neon coloured thin little plastic post it ones that you use for revision.

  • Tabs - Tabs should not just be used to mark the beginning of a new case. Tabs are fantastic ways of speeding up the moot because with tabs you can direct the Judge straight to the page with the quote you are relying on. This saves the old lovely from having to fumble through umpteen pages, wasting your valuable time. Much easier to just say "Can I direct your lordship to page xyz, which can be found at pink tab number 2". Another tip is to use different colour tabs for you and your partner to add to the ease of use and avoid confusion.
  • Highlighting - As always this may be subject to the rules, but I have always found that highlighting the passage which you intend to refer to has found favour with the Judges I have mooted before.

Speeches and speaking: This is (for obvious reasons) the most important part of the moot and will provide the bulk of the advice in this post.

  • Pre-written - I know that many people like to have all their speech written out and then learn it and distill it, and reduce it to little cards or bullet points on A4. I implore you that if you can avoid doing this then do so. No matter how much you practice and re-read it you will never memorise it and you should not try to do so. You will sound just as wooden and may forget where you are. True spontaneity and natural mooting is achieved by reading the cases, formulating your points, thinking about any possible questions the Judge might ask, and going for it when you get on your feet. I have at the most the quotes I am relying upon plus the full citation. That is all! From a tactical point of view this makes life so much easier.
  • The language you use - Do not use slang (unless it is in the facts of a case or a judgment), abbreviations, or colloquialisms. Do not say TV say television. Do not say kids say children. The moot is a formal affair, and vulgarity does not go down well unless you can be humorous. In a previous moot I had to describe a case in which a man was caught receiving a blow job off of his girlfriend. Instead of saying that I used the word fellatio. Same thing just sounds more professional. However,
  • Don't use long words for the sake of it - You do not have much time so verbosity and verbal flannelage will not impress, it will only waste time and possibly obscure the point of your argument.

If you are the appellant:

  • Try and figure out what points your opponent will make and address them in your speech. This is another reason why you should not use a fully written speech. If you can make your point and give some good reasons why your opponent is wrong, you give the Judge some difficult questions to ask the other side before they have even opened their mouths.
  • Listen to the other side when they are making their submissions and write down answers to any points they make which need to be addressed in the rebuttal.
  • The rebuttal - This is by far and away my favourite part of the moot. The last voice that the the Judge will hear is yours so make it count. You have to be forceful and compelling. Address the points methodically and explain why they are clearly wrong. Use all of the knowledge you have including that of precedent. You will be surprised the number of times that teams will cite dissenting judgments and decisions of lower courts. These can all be used to your benefit. For the lead counsel who gives the rebuttal - Know your partners grounds of appeal nearly as well as yours.


  • Have an idea of what you want to say in support of your points, but most of your speech should be based on what the appellants have said in the preceding 20 or so minutes. This is yet again another reason not to have a written speech (sorry to bang on about it but it is just so important). You are the respondents so your job is to respond to their actual arguments, something you cannot do until you have actually heard them. You can think of some really novel ideas during this time which make excellent points.

General points:

  • Pretend you are actually in court presenting a real case. Refer to the decision of the lower court and if in a criminal moot a good out when a judge asks you why the particular indictment was chosen say "I am afraid I was not involved in the CPS decision when the case was heard at first instance. I have only been involved in the case from the start of the appeal proceedings". It shows that you know a bit about the legal system and that you are taking it seriously. Well that or it's a good display of BS.
  • Be inventive - After you have looked at the question and the immediately involved cases try to think laterally about the question. Just because it is a criminal case does not mean that you can't look to civil cases for sources of principle to put before the court. I personally like to be on the side where the law is clearly against you as it forces you to be really inventive.
  • Dress - The clothes maketh the man or so it is said. Look like a barrister and you immediately show you mean business. Do not slouch! Stand up tall (I have to do this as I am only 5ft 4"), speak loudly, and try to project an air of confidence even of your are bricking it. Shoes should be black, lace ups for men, leather, and polished to a high sheen. Trousers should be pressed, as should the shirt which from personal preference should be white. Choose a sombre tie and if you do not know how to already learn to tie a Windsor or half Windsor knot. If you have long hair make sure it is tied back so you do not fiddle with it. Do not wear any jewellery that may rattle and cause a distraction.

Well, I think that is enough for the moment. This is the longest post I have written for a long time. Hope that it is useful and enjoyable,


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another win!

Just the quickest of quick posts to let you know that we won the moot last Wednesday (I scored 18 out of 20), and we are now through to the quarter final of the ESU comp. It's either QMUL or KCL next.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2nd round of ESU Mooting Competition

Last Thursday saw BoB, his mooting partner, the Mistress of the Moots, and a friend who wanted to come along and support us, climb into a rather nice hire car (paid for by the law school) and set off to the hallowed learning establishment that is Oxford University.

Now I am a fairly confident guy and feel that I am a fairly accomplished mooter but I must admit that the thought of going to Oxford to face the two best undergraduate mooters at the university did make me feel a little anxious. Especially seeing as the preparation had been less than I would have liked due to other more pressing problems such as keeping on top of my work for the third year (where has the time gone?).

We arrived at Magdalen College after a very pleasant drive through the snowy Oxfordshire countryside and after parking the car fled to the nearest coffee house to finish preparing our bundles (I told you that the prep was a little lacking). Come five o'clock we changed into our best attire and made our way to the mock court (lovely oak panelled room in the college). The other team were already there and after a brief exchange of pleasantries and bundles we sat and waited for the Judge to arrive.

Now as you may recall from my last post (apologies for the lack of posting) I have recently revised my mooting style and now only use the briefest of notes and the selected quotations I require. In fact on my last ground of appeal I had written next to no notes at all and was, for want of a better word, winging it. As it turned out if I had written very detailed notes it would have been an absolute disaster. The Judge was very tough and the entire experience was more like a cross between the Spanish inquisition and a one on one seminar with the strictest tutor imaginable. This is not to say that it wasn't enjoyable because it was actually great fun with even a sharing of jokes over the facts of one of the cases involved (a man caught on CCTV receiving fellatio from his girlfriend).

As we were the respondents in this case we had to listen to the Oxford team go first who both sounded very professional, calm, and collected. I must admit that when it came to the Judge giving the verdict I was not sure which way it would go. He gave a very long judgment on the law (which we lost on both points) and then finally gave the result the appellants and 51% to the respondents. We had beaten the best that Oxford had to offer. We were obviously thrilled and to top the evening off the Oxford team took us out for an all expenses paid dinner afterwards. We are now looking forward to the third round, although the question is on trusts which is a subject I hoped to never have to deal with again.

All the best and hope everyone is well