Moot point
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Justinian in Barely Legal, Law students, Moots

Barely Legal does his first moot and has an out-of-body realisation ... Of course, it's about the "experience" - never mind the winning ... Breathe in, breathe out ... Our student-at-law blogs 

MOOTS are terrifying, electrifying and bizarre - or all three depending on your ability to buy into their fiction. 

Where else, outside of the theatre, do you get the chance to dress up, memorise roles, orate, and score points at the same time? All while negotiating facts worthy of a Barry Humphries skit. 

Moots are one of the more peculiar aspects of the law school experience.

Yet they serve an important purpose - to transform timid and tired law students into magnificent counsel, which in turn strengthens the legal profession and the administration of justice - or so we are told. 

With this idea firmly planted in mind I sat across from opposing mooters and watched their opening address fizzle and crash. It was my first time in a moot, so I was groping for as much self-confidence as could be mustered. 

Honestly though, the other side put in a performance worthy of the Hindenburg. The moot judge peered intently at his notes and scratched his head. Others look at the ceiling. 

Occasionally the judge would interrupt "counsel" with a rapier-like dart of logic, throwing my opponent further off course and strangling her vocal chords. 

When her train wreck of an address petered out, I stood up - with white knuckles and shaking notes. I cleared my throat and announced, without a wisp of irony, "Counsel for the respondent, your honour". 

"Very good, you may commence your submission." 

My body began to relax as I spoke. I felt in-control and utterly splendid. 

"We submit Mr Syrios, the young but troubled doubles tennis prodigy, should have an implied contractual term enforced against him, the likes of which would have been enforced against B1 or B2 or the underwear company they choose to claim sponsorship from." 

At the same time a distracting out-of-body experience swept over me. I'm here dressed as a pretend barrister, talking to a pretend judge who has just reduced a young women to jelly, and we're talking about underwear sponsorship arrangements for a pair of dancing bananas. No one seemed to think this was strange. Is this what real life in the law is going to be like? 

Clearly the practice of law requires a high degree of out-of-body disassociation - and boy was I disassociated.

I finished my address, answered questions from the learned pretend judge, and resumed my learned seat, inhaling for the first time in 15 minutes.

We sat in stony silence as the judge tallied the score. My team scraped enough points together not to come second. We shook hands and pretended it was about the "experience" and not "winning", before strutting out into the sunshine. 

In scenarios like this, law school is to law students as a fishbowl is to goldfish.  

To the student inside the law school, the outside legal profession seems close, yet inaccessible. It also appears warped and scary. Such is a moot court to the real thing. 

I can't wait to get out of the fishbowl. 

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (http://justinian.com.au/).
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