The Sinister Idea of Mooting

If you are a student at AIL, chances are that the idea of mooting scares you. The idea of tirelessly working in the research cell (need I mention Punjabi songs) for months together is rather uninviting. Then there is the every lingering threat of not meeting the attendance criteria. And (god-forbid) if you have a cross-team, well… good luck to you then! But despite all these never-ending issues that students have, there have always been some who have gone ahead and conquered the mooting competition.

Author’s Note: In this post, I’ve tried to cover a few (and most influential) mooting guides that I have ever come across (not that I’m an authority on mooting, but they did help me overcome my inhibitions.)


Know this, that a judge in a mooting competition has probably heard it all before (know this more if you are the fifth team appearing before him from the side of the respondents). In order for him to appreciate your argument, you need to get his attention to the point that your making. This (as I have been advised) happens to be a more frequent scenario when the bench comprises of sitting High Court/Supreme Court judges. Strategize your orals in a way that you can turn the arguments exciting (or more so dramatic) if that’s the need of the hour.

A judge from the International Court of Justice once said that he sometimes gets so bored during actual hearings that he starts drawing battle ships on a piece of paper. We use as a reference the records of the International Court of Justice (being among the few international tribunals whose records are available online) to show calling-the-judges’-attention phrases used by some of the most renowned governmental lawyers. It is always a good idea to be armed with such ice-breakers when facing a cold bench. Besides, even the most authority-backed argument may miss making the right impact when vaguely presented.

(So what must you do? Read Alice in the World of Oral Arguments for answers.

However, on the contrary, if your Bench comprises of Partners/PAs from a law firm, try focusing more on the law and it’s interpretation you’ve applied to forward your argument.

If you are doing a moot, make books, journals and reporters your friend. Read everything that relates to your moot proposition, be it newspaper articles, opinion blogs or just the lyrics to the song about the issue.

Hugo Grotius, one of the fathers of international law, was once imprisoned following the so-called Arminian theological controversy. Grotius was allowed to receive books in his cell every week. Eventually, he escaped from prison hidden in the chest of books.

Your experience in a moot court competition will only be as good as your team dynamics. You cannot win this single-handedly. But neither does that mean that your moot team must include all your best friends. Understand your teammates and their individual working methodologies.

In his speech delivered in 2009 on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Prof. James Crawford mentioned that there have been cases in his career which he has lost. But he also mentioned how he and Sir Elihu Lauterpaht have won every single case in which they have appeared together.

Know you opponent. Know his strengths, know his weaknesses. Beat him at his game.

During the 1960 US presidential elections, the two major candidates John Kennedy and Richard Nixon took part in the first presidential debates to be aired on TV. In a slightly exaggerated narrative of the story, the two men agreed not to wear any makeup for the TV duel, although both of them broke this promise. To his detriment, Nixon had opted for a makeup unsuitable for the hot studio lights. Additionally, knowing that his opponent tends to sweat heavily, Kennedy had the heat turned slightly up. As a consequence, during the interview Nixon looked nervous and fidgeted, in contrast to the relaxed and confident Kennedy. This led to the latter’s victory.

[y]ou have to actually capture the resistance coming against you when you are sailing… If you capture the wind… your ship will actually sail faster…

Do not get threatened by the judges questions. In all probabilities, he is not trying to dissuade you. Use his question to advance your arguments and showcase your knowledge.

(Watch Nancy Duarte’s TED Talk The secret structure of great talks for more

Build a story. Understand that there is a client at the other end, for whom winning or losing the case can define his entire life.

Most people don’t realise this, but mooting reaches a whole new level when one understands the impacts a judgement would eventually have on a (hypothetical) client. If he loses the case, he could lose all his investments, or worse still, be imprisoned. Given this backdrop, the entire scheme of argumentation changes dynamically.

Winning the competition is not the end of mooting.

Most people would refuse to moot just because they lost the last moot due to biased judges. But winning is not the only end that mooting must achieve. In a seniors experience, they lost in the semi-finals of Stetsons. But that very day, during the valedictory ceremony of the competition, they got a print out of the Jessup’s Compromis and aced Jessup the following year.

If you’re interested in knowing more about mooting watch: or read


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