We have taken our annual mooting competition online this time with celebrity guest and esteemed barrister, Sean Wallace; Mel Varey, the national director of the Court of Protection team at Simpson Millar; and, District Judge Elpha LeCointe from 1 Garden Court Chambers as the competition’s judges.
Mooting is the verbal presentation of a legal case or issue against an opposing counsel. When mooting, the issues, and the procedure remain as close to a real case as possible and entrants present their submissions in front of a Judge. It is the closest experience to appearing before the Supreme Court that a student can have whilst at university.
But why is mooting so important to law students? Mooting develops case analysis, drafting, legal research and advocacy skills. In addition, students gain an understanding of how to identify, analyse and apply principles derived from statute and case law. Honing these skills will help both in studies and working life.
International Components Ltd (“ICL” - the respondent) entered into a contract for services with Clinton Support Services Ltd (“Clinton” - the applicant) whereby Clinton would provide support at a level to be determined at ICL's option each month.
ICL then found a cheaper provider and so terminated the contract. Consequently, Clinton issued proceedings for breach of contract. ICL advanced the defence that Clinton ought to have engaged in a form of ADR prior to commencing proceedings in accordance with the terms of the contract.
That defence was successful in the first instance and the mooters were therefore making submissions in respect of Clinton's appeal of that decision. The grounds of appeal were, broadly, that:
- The mediation clause was merely an ‘agreement to agree’ and was therefore unenforceable and Clinton should therefore be allowed to pursue its claim.
- On its proper construction, the service levels clause place ICL under a single obligation to determine the level of performance required. The damages to which Clinton would, therefore, be entitled, ought to reflect the way in which ICL would actually have fulfilled the obligation. Accordingly, the matter ought to be remitted to the Commercial Court for direction.
The finalists facing off in the ULaw Mooting competition were Lead Appellant – Amy Freeman, Junior Appellant – Amy Jenkins, Lead Respondent – Hannah Berry, and Junior Respondent – James Babington.
The four entrants used their skills and knowledge acquired from their studies to inform their submissions, which they presented to the three judges over the online streaming system, Collaborate.
Lead appellant, Amy Freeman, started the moot off with an eloquent and informed presentation. She submitted that the ‘mediation clause’ within the case was merely an “agreement to agree”, lacking in sufficient certainty, and was therefore unenforceable.
Amy Jenkins, junior appellant, continued citing a number of authorities to support her submission that the court should conduct a counter-factual enquiry as to how the contract would have been performed and that, on applying that assessment, the court ought to conclude that ICL would have acted in good faith and not ‘un-commercially in order to spite [Clinton].
Lead Respondent, Hannah Berry, contended that the mediation clause was not merely an ‘agreement to agree’ but was rather certain and complete in its construction such that it should be held as binding and enforceable. Ms Berry’s submission was that, on that basis, there had been a breach by Clinton and, accordingly, the judgment at first instance was correct and the appeal ought to be dismissed.
Finally, junior respondent, James Babington, submitted that on its proper construction, the service levels clause placed ICL under a single obligation to determine the level of required performance. Accordingly, Mr Babington submitted, any damages should be calculated on the basis of the 75 hour option as that would be the most beneficial to ICL.
It was a close call for the three judges when each and every one of the entrants presented their arguments so professionally. Before revealing the winner, Sean Wallace said that the standard of advocacy, confidence and delivery was exceptional of all the candidates.
Mel Varey also congratulated the candidates on their seamless use of the digital platform within the moot, stating that “moving forwards in the climate that we’re in, this kind of hearing will be more and more the norm.”
District Judge Elpha LeCointe added that she was “very impressed with the way that each of the candidates handled the material, dealt with presenting the authorities and making them relevant to their particular argument. There were also some quite impressive responses to the Judge’s questions.”
Although mightily impressed by all four candidates, Shaun Wallace declared lead respondent, Hannah Berry the winner. He commended her for her thorough presentation of the case and use of legal examples.
Sean Wallace concluded the competition by stating that: “The legal profession in years to come is going to be in very safe and fantastic hands. Congratulations to all the candidates.”