Mooting is like mock trial at the appeal level: No witnesses, no evidence, no cross-examinations. Just you, the judge and your arguments.
“Moot”, “mooting”, or “moot court” has been an extracurricular activity at most law schools across Canada, the United States and the world for decades. At Osgoode Hall Law School, many varsity teams of second and third year students travel the country and the world representing us at national and international mooting competitions every year. Mooting is even a required assignment for all first-year students.
But more recently, tournaments like the Osgoode Cup have taken law school mooting and brought it to undergraduate students who are interested in attending law school, paralegal school or a career in law more generally. It’s even a great tool for anyone interested in a career in politics, communications or public speaking since it tests your ability to speak confidently, answer questions on the fly and defend your assigned position.
The Osgoode Cup’s format
At the Osgoode Cup, teams of two are given a real Canadian case and must take the side of either the appellant (the side trying to overturn the previous decision) or the respondent (the side trying to uphold the previous decision). They each present an argument before a panel of judges and will be interrupted by questions from the bench that they must respond to. After both appellant speakers go first, both respondent speakers get to go second. The Osgoode Cup does not give the appellant a right of reply. The judges will then pick a winning team based on their understanding of the law, oral advocacy and ability to answer questions. For Day 1, each speaker gets 7 minutes to speak (14 per team), but on Day 2 for elimination rounds each speaker gets 10 minutes (20 per team).
On the four rounds of Day 1, each team will be required to represent both the appellant and respondent at some point, so make sure you have arguments prepared for both sides. While teams will usually be on the appellant and respondent side twice, sometimes the distribution of teams and positions will result in a team spending three rounds on one side and one round on the other. This does not affect scoring or your chances of moving on.
The Osgoode Cup is committed to giving every opportunity to teaching competitors to understand and learn mooting style. To this effect we will be circulating materials on mooting, providing numerous mooting videos online, and providing mooting coaches for all teams that would like them as feasible.
Keep in mind that different undergraduate moot tournaments may have different rules from the Osgoode Cup.
Law School Mooting? Mock Trial? Debate?
Unlike mooting in law school, the Osgoode Cup does not give mooters a fictitious fact scenario. Our cases are directly taken from real Canadian cases at the Supreme Court of Canada or a provincial Court of Appeal, which means mooters must stick to only what is referred to in the decision itself. At the Osgoode Cup, no outside research is allowed and no written materials (i.e. a factum) need to be submitted.
Unlike mock trial, mooting is at the appeals level, like the Supreme Court of Canada or the Ontario Court of Appeal. That means there’s no witnesses, no exhibits of evidence and no cross-examinations. Sorry, you might have to save that “A Few Good Men” speech for another time.
Unlike debate competitions, mooting is only a conversation between the judges and the single mooter presenting at any given time. That means the opposing team cannot cut them off, ask them questions or ask to issue their own argument in the middle of their opponent’s speech. Only the judges are allowed to interrupt the mooter.
Like any formal academic competition, all participants are expected to conduct themselves as if they are in a real court. That means our dress code is business formal, so save the t-shirt and sweatpants for after the competition.
When speaking, your language should be formal and appropriate. Refer to your teammate as “my co-counsel”, refer to the judges as “Your Honour” or “Madam/Mr. Justice”, and refer to your opponents as “my friends” or “my colleagues”. But remember, even when you’re not the mooter on the podium speaking, judges will be paying attention to your etiquette both during your teammate’s submissions and the opposing team’s submissions.