Moot Court Board - Instructional Videos
Introduction and Roadmap
The introduction and roadmap should encapsulate everything you hope to cover during your argument in the first ninety seconds of your argument. Always begin with "may it please the court." Introduce yourself, and co-counsel if necessary. Clearly state the relief you want from the court, whether it is a reversal or affirmation, and then outline the reasons the court should find in your favor. Your roadmap of these reasons is what you can later signpost to during your argument to let the judges know you are transitioning from one part of your argument to the next. Remember, the more clearly and succinctly you introduce your argument, the more likely you are to get to each of your points. The judges will be more likely to follow what you are saying and hopefully agree with you.
Transitions and Signposting
Transitions help you transition from one part of your argument to the next. In many cases, it can be as simple as telling the listener that you are moving on to your next point. Signposting helps your audience follow along and recognize where you are in the argument with respect to the points you promised in the introduction and roadmap. Remember, only you know where you are heading with your argument and sometimes the listener can get lost. A good signpost keeps them with you and makes the argument sound more persuasive.
When the bench asks you a question, it is best to immediately answer the question with a direct "yes" or "no" and then explain why. If you launch into the explanation first, the answer to the question may get lost in the explanation, which the bench may interpret as dodging the issue. Further, always address the court in your answer, such as "yes, your Honor" or "no, your Honor." It shows deference to the bench. Finally, when disagreeing with the court, it is not necessary to use the term "respectfully." Remember, this is a conversation and questions are to be expected. The judges are seeking specific information that intrigues them about your case, so providing clear and persuasive answers will help them in finding in your favor.
Answering Double Questions
Many times a judge will ask a question containing multiple parts, or two judges will both ask questions at the same time. The general rule is to show deference to the chief judge and answer his or her question first. However, if it makes sense to answer the questions in another order, ask permission of the judges to address their questions in that particular order. Sometimes it is hard to remember the second question if you have spent time answering the first, and a helpful tip to avoid this is to put a finger on each part of your notes that refers to a question. Then you have a reference. Remember, you want to answer all the questions asked of you; and while double, triple, or even quadruple questions can be tricky, they can be managed with practice.
Expiration of Time
Closing out your argument strongly is important, and how you manage the expiration of time can be critical. Always show deference to the bench by stopping and asking for permission to continue: either conclude, finish your point, or finish answering a question. Most importantly, be brief! If you have finished your argument or have made a particularly compelling point as time expires, simply thanking the bench and sitting down is also appropriate. Remember, this is the last impression the judges will have of you, so be respectful and finish as strong as possible.
The general rule is you cannot win on rebuttal, only lose. Depending on the amount of time you have left make only one or two points on rebuttal. The temptation exists to shred everything your opponent has said in these final minutes. Do not give in! Pick your best point or two the most responsive and persuasive and argue them briefly and succinctly. Remember, you have already had plenty of time to make your arguments, so there is no need to rehash everything again. Rebuttal gives you the opportunity to have the last word make it count!