How to Prepare Oral Argument
(The text is quoted from Duke Law School Moot Court Board’s website with minor modifications)
For anyone unfamiliar with the in's and out's of Jessup moot court oral argument, the following is a useful guide. For further guidance, you may view a video recording of past Jessup moot court competition.
Structure & Sequence
Competitors may be seated after the judges sit down. When the judges indicate that they are ready, the student should rise and approach the podium or lectern.
The very first statement out of moot court competitors' mouths should always be, "May it please the Court, my name is _____, counsel for the appellant [or respondent], _____." It is very important to remember to say, "May it please the Court;" it is simply a well-established formality of moot court competition, to which you should adhere.
3. Statement of the Case
You should always begin your argument with a clear and persuasive statement explaining the essence of your case. This statement should be confident, succinct, and, to the extent possible, slanted in favor of your version of the case. For example, in a case where police allegedly used excessive force in apprehending a suspected drug dealer, counsel for the government might state the case in the following way: "This is a case about the proper and lawful use of police power to address the significant threats posed by drug trafficking in our city."
After introducing yourself and your case, but before making any further argument, identify the TWO or THREE (but no more than three) issues you will discuss. Make these issues clear and straightforward. For example, "This Court should find in favor of the appellant [or respondent] for two reasons...." You should then list your main arguments. For example, "...First, because this Court does not have jurisdiction; and Second, because customary international law is applicable in this case and is on the side of the appellant [or respondent]."
If you think of (and/or organize) your oral argument in outline form, the two or three reasons contained within your roadmap should be the highest levels of your outline (below the conclusion you want the Court to reach). The body of your argument should expand below the reasons you list in your roadmap. The roadmap gives judges an overarching picture of the more nuanced argument that will follow.
Memorize your opening and your roadmap. The most successful oral advocates memorize their opening roadmap and maintain eye contact with the judges throughout. This is the best way to make a good first impression of confidence and preparedness.
Briefly outline the relevant facts of your case, taking care to highlight those that support your position, but without arguing your position. Keep your facts short (no more than two minutes) and focus on the critical elements of your case. Be forewarned that the Court might interrupt and ask you to skip the facts. If they do, proceed with your argument. Don't assume that this will happen, though; it's the Court's decision. Bottom line: prepare the facts.
6. Order of Argument
Begin the body of your argument by discussing the first issue in your roadmap. Make your argument, and then proceed directly to your second issue. There is no need to pause or to solicit questions. The judges will interrupt you with questions as they wish. Answer their questions directly and use your roadmap and outline to find an appropriate place at which to continue arguing.
When you have finished your argument, end with a clear statement of what you are asking the Court to do (a "prayer for relief"). For example, "...For the foregoing reasons, I respectfully request that the Court find in favor of the appellant / respondent and [take whatever specific action is specified in the memorials]."
Etiquette & Style
At all times, judges are to be referred to as "Your...
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