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Law Society Shine At National Mooting Finals

On Thursday 20 June, Royal Holloway competed in the National Finals of the OUP-ICCA National Mooting Competition, one of the most prestigious and widely-recognised Mooting competitions in England.

Oliver Snelgrove and Yasmin Ilhan represented the RHUL team, with help from Sarah Bassuni in the second round, and as a result of their dedication they conquered 60 other teams to make it to the final. Those who know about Mooting will understand how intensely difficult it can be. Those who don’t, read on to learn about the competition and the team’s journey through it.

For the uninitiated, Mooting can seem strange - even the name sounds like someone misquoting Pingu. In truth, Mooting is one of the most respected and esteemed extra curricular activities that a student interested in the law can partake in. Participants take part in a “mock appeal”, which is similar to the mock courts you may have watched on Suits, except about ten times more difficult.

Instead of cross-examining witnesses or debating the facts, trying to convince a jury that your client is innocent or otherwise, you stand alone before a judge with nothing but your wits and a bundle full of cases, with the goal of convincing the judge that you know the law better than the other side. It inspires complex thinking and keen analysis to take the existing case law and adapt it to support your side, which is made more difficult by the fact that your opponents will be doing the exact same. You then stand before the judge for 15-20 minutes and make your case - or at least you try to, until the judge interrupts you with a barrage of questions that leave you jumping from one point to another. A full moot will take days, or sometimes weeks, of careful preparation, and even that can all come crashing down if you’re not quick on your feet when the questions come. Confidence, adaptability, and eloquence are all indispensable skills for any aspiring Mooter.

The competition format is relatively straightforward; each round consists of a one-on-one moot, with the loser being knocked out the competition. In past years, Royal Holloway students have never made it past the first round, and so going into the competition expectations were low. The first round, in which Oliver and Yasmin fought an interesting debate about the law of negligence against Greenwich University, nearly dashed our hopes straight out the gate, as the other team were chosen as the winner. Fortunately, though, another team dropped out, and Oliver and Yasmin were the highest scoring runners up, and thus kept in the competition. This led them to round two, a family law debate about child marriage against the Open University, in which Sarah Bassuni stood in for Yasmin and joined Oliver in the mock Court of Appeal. Despite a slight slip of the tongue, and subsequent debate about whether “sacred cow” was a legally recognised term, our team won out by a single point against Open, and made it to the next round.

Several rounds ensued, with multiple teams attempting to take on the RHUL dream team, and all of them failing. By the time the semi finals rolled around, only eight teams remained, including the likes of Cambridge and LSE. Satisfied with how well they’d already done, but nonetheless eager to prove themselves further, Oliver and Yasmin took to the stand against Oxford University to contest an appeal regarding intellectual property. Having never studied this before, as well as facing such a well respected university, our team prepared for the worst. But once again, by a mere margin of only two points, team RHUL’s tenacity and skill paid off, and they knocked out Oxford to make it to the final.

The finals of the competition took place at Gray’s Inn, with four teams each vying for the grand prize of £1500 and the chance to Marshall with a judge from the Old Bailey, the highest criminal court in the country. In the first moot of the final were UCL and Open University, who were saved from elimination on points much the same way as we were. Following that, Oliver and Yasmin stood against the University of Nottingham in the mock Supreme Court, giving an outstanding performance that made the university proud. The competition’s judge, Her Honour Judge Joanna Korner CMG QC, was quick to highlight that the level of advocacy from all the teams was on par with that of some of the best qualified Barrister’s she’d seen. Whilst UCL were selected as the winners, everyone at the competition performed to an incredible standard, to the point that the second place prize had to be split, as it was impossible to distinguish between the remaining teams. As a society, we’re incredibly proud of our mooters, who did what many might have said was impossible, and made it look easy.

“I was incredibly reluctant to take part in mooting because of the intensity and stress that can come with it,” Yasmin said. “However, looking back now, I am so grateful that I started because it has taught me skills that have prepared me for the legal profession, and how to be a good advocate in a way classes never could. It is the most valuable activity I have done and I cannot recommend it enough.”

Are you interested in Mooting? Do you have a quick wit, a passion for public speaking, or a keen eye for problem solving? Then get involved in the Law Society’s Mooting programme over the next academic year! Our sessions are open to students from all disciplines, so even if you have little to no knowledge of the law, we’ll support you in developing the skills you need to succeed. We run workshops on all the elements of mooting, ranging from preparation of your arguments and bundles, to advocacy and question answering. To get involved, simply contact us at lawsociety@su.rhul.ac.uk, or buy yourself a membership in the 2019/20 academic year. We’re always on the lookout for the next generation of talent; who knows, you could be our next National Mooting finalist!

Charles Brook // Incoming President, Law Society