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The art of the moot

Do not fear, oral advocacy can be your friend
|Written By Terrah Smith

The beginning of the year is not a particularly pleasant time for most Canadians. It means back to work, blizzards, and no official holidays. For many 1L students, there is another reason to dread it — moots. The moot is usually students’ first oral presentation in front of their peers (unless you count drunken karaoke). It is nerve-wracking, to say the least. Fears of stammering, turning beet red, and worse, bursting into tears, run rampant.

While the moot may not compare to a colonoscopy, it still engenders tremendous trepidation in most students. Some people are more comfortable researching or pushing pencils (whatever that means) rather than speaking publicly. Perhaps for that very reason the moot benefits these people the most. They might discover they are actually good at — or at least enjoy — oral advocacy. Who knows, maybe some will even be inspired to enter a competition or two.

Although the moot may be daunting, it gives students the opportunity to demonstrate they know their material. It can be a lot easier to convey an argument with tone, well-placed pauses, and hand gestures. In fact, in other post-secondary programs, it is common to have oral exams. This attests to the old adage that you do not really know a topic until you try to explain it. Better yet, if you can hold your own and maintain your argument while being bombarded with questions, then you prove that you truly do have a grasp on the subject.

Most importantly, the moot gives students a chance to practise the art of rhetoric. Sometimes the most difficult part is representing a client’s interests rather than spewing your own take on the matter. It is important to remember that “lawyering” is a business. Those book-filled boardrooms need to be paid for somehow. Sometimes the facts of a case may not be on your side, but you still have to be persuasive. Moreover, you might even disagree with what you are suggesting, yet for the sake of winning the case it might be necessary to pretend the opposite.

So for future 1Ls, already biting their nails as they anxiously prepare for school, just know that the positives of the moot outweigh the negatives. The moot is an essential experience to law school — it encourages students to be well-rounded, open-minded, and ready for a challenge. If that does not ease your worries, remind yourself that at least it is a break from class! As fellow student Leng Low said, “All in all, I would do it again.”

Terrah Smith is a first-year law student at the University of Western Ontario. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, and consuming all things culture.