A View Of The Commonwealth Mooting Competition

It is fair to say that, when I entered the Oxford Brookes University mooting competition, I did not have my eye on a flight to Cape Town. The aim was simply to gain a little experience of advocacy ‘on my feet’, and to explore more deeply some of the legal concepts that might otherwise simply be summarised in a law conversion course. Somehow, however, my mooting partner and I won that competition, and then went on to win the English Speaking Union/Essex Court Chambers National Mooting Competition as well. Our flight to Cape Town was booked.

Having secured generous financial backing for our travel from City Law School, Inner Temple and Lincoln’s Inn, we soon found ourselves at the Commonwealth Law Conference. The general experience was everything that we had hoped for, and more. CLEA very kindly paid for hotel rooms right in the centre of Cape Town, and we were quickly attending sessions with lawyers from all over the Commonwealth. We also met our competitors, which was a somewhat humbling experience. The entire mooting competition, in fact, would have been worth it simply for the experience of getting to know our peers. They were universally interesting, sociable and, frankly, more than a little intellectually intimidating.

As law conversion students, my mooting partner and I had never studied international law. After encountering our competitors, we quickly understood the depth of knowledge that was required for this level of mooting, and started doing more research than we ever had before. Whilst stressful, this was also a fascinating learning experience. Of course, we still left a little time for sight-seeing and participation in the conference.

Before we knew it, the mooting competition itself was upon us, and we had the privilege of seeing the different advocacy styles of each team. From the relaxed and confident Namibians, the absolute mastery of legal detail exhibited by the Indians, and the calm responsiveness to judicial questioning of the Australians, we learnt something from each moot we participated in. We also learnt what real forensic questioning from the bench can feel like. This was particularly the case in the final, in which we faced a judicial panel consisting of three Chief Justices of Commonwealth countries. Whatever practice throws at us from now on, it is highly unlikely to be quite that intimidating again!

I would not hesitate in describing the Commonwealth Mooting Competition as one of the highlights of my legal education. Not only was it enormously helpful in securing pupillage interviews as part of my CV, but it broadened my legal horizons in ways that I had not anticipated. It is a highly valuable project, and one that I hope continues for many years to come.

Matthew Sellwood

Winner, 2013 Commonwealth Mooting Competition (United Kingdom)

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