‘From over 120 first round advocates, I was one of only 16 to have made it to the final’ – Nicola Lambert on the journey to the Final of BPP Advocate of the Year.

Second year student Nicola Lambert outlines her experience of Mooting in her first year: From interview to competing in the final of BPP advocate of the Year

I remember the interview for the mooting team so well. I was about 3 weeks into my LLB with absolutely zero prior experience.  However, as soon as mooting was mentioned in our lectures, I knew it was for me.  

The experience of standing up in a moot court and arguing my case to the judges just sounded so enticing, so as soon as our Master and Mistress of Moots gave us the opportunity to join the internal team, I jumped at the chance.  

Our first task was a Plea in Mitigation. I had absolutely no idea what that meant, all I knew was that I needed to talk for 5 minutes.  A quick bit of googling, a few Youtube videos watched and I had a good idea of what I needed to do, so I composed an argument and went off to my interview.  

It was in the Courtroom at OFGS, which I now feel is my spiritual home! The panel of Virna (academic lead) and Adam (Master of the Moot at the time) put me at ease, asked me some questions about my past and reasons for my choice of Law and off I went.  

It was so fun! Arguing why a sentence should be mitigated. And then dealing with judicial intervention and standing my ground… So much fun. 

I left the interview on a high, feeling I’d done the best I could, and maybe I might get a place on the internal team. Imagine my surprise when the email landed asking me to take part in the prestigious BPP Advocate of the Year competition… In London!!! 

So, I continued my first year studies and waited for the case to land. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later the AOTY joining instructions arrived. The cases were fascinating. A civil case concerning a driving offence and a criminal case concerning threatening behaviour.  

We were a team of 4 and each of us had a role in each case. I was to argue against bad character evidence in the criminal case, and to cross examine in the civil case.  

We spent a few weeks building our cases, planning our points and considering what opposing council would say. We even bought some toy cars and drew a map to run through the events in the civil case.  

The evening before the competition was a tense affair, with  our Master of Moots Adam, and our Academic Lead, Virna sitting up till the wee small hours making sure everything was ready.  

We then walked across town to BPP Holborn, a beautiful glass facade over an incredible old building. We gathered for a briefing and then went to our base for the day. The Civil Case came first, I was Cross Examining and the penultimate speaker, so had a nerve wracking wait while my co council presented their arguments first. The butterflies were making my tummy do summersaults but as I stood to begin I felt amazing!  

The 15 minute cross examination found me asking about the Highway Code, what the accused had had for lunch, and whether it was normal to look down at a junction. I had to put my case, and lead the witness through the examination in order to strengthen our cause. When I stated “I have nothing further” and sat, I felt elated. My heart pounding and my mouth dry. It was such an exhilarating experience. 

The afternoon was the criminal case- I had an argument against the adduction of bad character evidence to present. And half way through I froze! I had been poorly with ‘flu and a coughing fit just made me loose my way completely! It felt like for ever. I was stood, looking the judge in the eyes, desperately searching for the word I wanted… and then I was off again.  

It was such a long day, but what an awesome experience. The wait for feedback was tough, but the wait for results was excruciating! It felt like years, but in reality a couple of weeks later, I received an email stating that, from over 120 first round advocates, I was one of only 16 to have made it to the final! I was absolutely over the moon. I was going to the Old Bailey in March to compete in a national final after only one experience in a Moot court. 

But then COVID- 19 tore across the world. The Old Bailey was closed, and our final was postponed, to run online in September.  

Advocate of the Year Final 2020 

In October 2019 as I began my law degree as a mature student, the mooting team caught my eye. Adam and Ellie had come to a lecture as Master and Mistress of the Moot to inspire us to apply to represent Derby Uni in external moots. As soon as I knew what was involved, I was totally hooked. Coming from a background as an educator, standing up and speaking holds no real fear for me and in fact, it’s something I love to do.  

I prepared a Plea in Mitigation for interview to be part of the external mooting team and went along feeling nervous and excited. Imagine my astonishment when I received a very hurried phone call the next day asking me to represent Derby at the prestigious BPP Advocate of the Year competition only a few weeks later.  

The first round in late November was actually my first experience ‘on my feet’ and I was utterly astounded to receive an email a few weeks later telling me that from over 100 competitors, I had qualified for one of 16 places in the final! 

This was originally scheduled for March 2020… but we all know what happened that month. Lockdown struck, the world changed and the final was postponed.  

It ran online in September via MS Teams and was just awesome. I was paired with a final year student from Aberystwth University. We had a few calls and emails back and forth about the cases and made some plans together. This was quite a challenge considering the lockdown and the timing in the academic year. Despite the impending academic year, any questions I put to the academic team were answered quickly and fully. I felt so supported. It was clear that the whole faculty was rooting for me.  

Even more challenging was the fact that I was preparing at the end of the school summer holidays and consequently had my children to look after alongside competition prep. 

I made the decision to go away for the weekend of the competition to ensure I had peace and quiet all day. Cue a quick trip to the North East and a nice weekend at my parents home where I had super bandwidth, tech support from my dad and endless cups of tea to keep me going. 

The day of the competition dawned and I sat down to begin. Those butterflies were going crazy! I received the most lovely email from Virna, the academic mooting lead wishing me well which gave me a huge boost. I began with a client interview for the criminal trial and then took examination in chief. I found the examination in chief to be the toughest part of the day. Non-leading questions, remaining factual and not putting suggestions to the witness are such hard skills to master.  

The afternoon saw the civil trial, which I was really looking forward to. This was a contract case examining a really shoddy contract and a cobbled together accusation of breach. The crux of my argument was to question how a contract could be breached if the terms were so vague as to be open to wide interpretation, rendering them unenforceable. I had a great time cross examining the claimant and as I said “I have nothing further” the clerk prompted me to end.  

My final speech was the closing remarks for the defence. I had a speech prepared, but owing to the excellent points raised by the closing remarks of opposing counsel, I had to do some ‘in the moment’ editing. This lead to me running over time and repeating myself as I worked hard to answer opposing council’s eloquently put points. This mistake cost me dearly.  

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it ended… and had some cake to celebrate.  

The results took about an hour. It can’t have been easy to deliberate over. The standard of my opponents was so high and  I really felt like I was part of something exceptional 

It would be a huge lie to say that I wasn’t disappointed that I had not been placed, but I was given some very encouraging feedback. Not repeating myself when summing up was one improvement to make, but I was told that my cross examination technique was ‘excellent’. I was delighted!  

The whole experience was amazing and one I will never forget.