How Law Students Can Practice To Be A Skilled Lawyer

How Law Students Can Practice To Be A Skilled Lawyer

by June Ong (The CanLaw Report)
#1 Mooting

I didn’t know the existence of this word until I stepped into law school. According to the Oxford Dictionary, mooting means:

“to debate on a dispute or uncertainty. Law schools host moot court debates, where students debate on a hypothetical court case but make research reference to actual cases.”

In other words, law student pretend to be real lawyers. They will have to research and “brain-juice” to find the correct cases to support their side of the argument.

Mooting is normally done in pairs. So there’ll be 2 on the defence team and 2 others on the plaintiff’s team. The whole session will be presided by a judge. Participants, who are also known as mooters, are given a moot problem.

Example of a moot problem.

They will need to prepare what is known as a ‘skeleton bundle’ consisting of their main points of argument, cases and laws that they would refer to in their submission. The skeleton argument must be submitted to the judge and the opponents within 48 hours before the competition.

Why so troublesome? This is to ensure the fairness of a moot trial, so that there would not be any ‘surprise evidence’ or facts of dispute that might be raised during competition day.

During the moot, a judge may interrupt at any time to ask questions about the significance of the case referred, clarifications of the facts of the case and etc. So a mooter must be able to think quick on his feet and to convince the judge on why their case should be favoured. Clearly, this skill CANNOT be obtained without countless of research.

Now, winning the judgement of the case does not automatically mean you have won the moot… although at most times, it usually is. What determines a winning moot revolves around presentation, research, skeleton bundle and the ability to respond to any change in arguments.

Also, a good mooter is not one who would tear an opponent down. It really is about being equipped with knowledge of the law and the ability to apply it.

P.S. I take back what I said about these activities not involving sitting in the library and reading pages of judgements because if you want to win a moot, this is the least you can do to prepare yourself from any unknowns that may be spewed out of a judge’s mouth.

#2 Witness Examination

You may have seen this on TV shows such as Law and Order and Suits. This is a fundamental part of advocacy training. As a judge once said, “witness examination is a species of unarmed combat”, you’re there to make or break the witness with only your wits and skills.

Witness examination is divided into three parts: examination in chief, cross-examination and re-examination.

During examination in chief, the counsel would have to control the witness’s storytelling so that the witness only says the evidence the counsel wants them to. Asking leading questions are not allowed as they would suggest the answer and only during cross-examination would this be allowed.

An example would be, “Were you at the park at 5pm yesterday?” So in an examination in chief, the question might be modified to become: “Where were you at 5pm yesterday?”

Many agree that cross-examination is the most exciting aspect of the three components of witness examination. This is because it involves the opposing counsel examining the witness to inspect the credibility of their story.

The trick is to obtain the evidence in such a way that the judge can make a conclusion on their own without having the counsel to say it out loud. The last part of this three-stage process is the re-examination to patch up any unfinished evidence.

The right to cross-examination of the witness is prescribed in Section 137 of the Evidence Act 1950. The value and importance of cross-examination have been advocated greatly and this sound reasoning has also been adopted by our Federal Court three decades ago in the Mokhtar Hashim’s case.

Mooting and cross-examining are vital skills that are needed in order to groom a good lawyer.
So to all my fellow law students who haven't tried any of these two, give them a shot!

This article was first published on The CanLaw Report on 27 September 2017