Blog post: Mock court appearances

Oh no… The lecturer announces that you’ll be doing a mock court appearance as an assignment this semester. Knees weak, hands trembling, dry mouth… what are you going to do?!

Whether it be mock trials, moots, bail applications or pleas in mitigation, there will likely be a few mock court appearances you will have to complete at law school. While they can be pretty daunting, these are an amazing way to practice your court skills. Even if you don’t picture yourself as a litigator or barrister in the future, these assessments allow you to develop other important lawyer skills, including the ability to think on your feet and work under pressure.

Here are our tip tips to preparing for mock court appearances:

  1. Over-prepare. This means understanding the facts and the law like the back of your hand. Start early, read the facts over and over, and find multiple sources for the relevant law (textbooks, articles, looseleaf online services, case law, legislation). Read the marking rubric to see what is expected of you, see how you can get the marks you want, and prepare accordingly.

  2. Play devil’s advocate. Anticipate what the other side will say to oppose your arguments, and think about what the judge might ask you. What would you be arguing if you were on the other side? What gaps would you see in your own arguments? Think about them, and prepare answers in advance that address and/or mitigate those issues. Have these notes near you when you get into the mock courtroom so you can draw on them if need be.

  3. Practice, practice, practice. If you have oral submissions, practice saying them out loud multiple times. Consider filming or recording yourself, and watching it back to critique it and make improvements to your pace, delivery, tone or content.

  4. Be familiar with the court environment before you get to the mock court. This includes the dress code, behaviour and formalities expected. Consider observing a public court case in your local court to observe what happens in practice, and take notes. If you know a litigation lawyer or barrister you could even ask them for some top tips!

  5. Breathe and take your time. When you get into the court, take a big deep breath. If the judge asks you a question and you don’t know how to answer it, breathe and take your time. If you need to, politely ask them to repeat the question. If you cannot answer it, consider responding that you will take that issue on notice or note the question down, and come back to their Honour with an answer. Depending on your assignment, you may be able to address that issue later in written submissions, or orally later on in the mock court trial if you manage to find the answer during the mock trial. Under no circumstances should you make up an answer! That is worse than saying that you do not know.

Mock trials can be scary, but everyone is feeling the same way about them we promise. Just chalk it up to experience! The great thing is that you can use this time at law school to practice and learn these skills, so that by the time you have to appear in court as a real lawyer, you’ll be ready!