Girls’ school shows winning style at national high school mooting competition

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
The team from Fintona Girls' School in Victoria went from 2023 runners-up to 2024 high school mooting champions.

A team from Fintona Girls’ School again showed why they are a formidable force in mooting by clinching this year’s Bond University National High School Mooting Competition as one of 12 teams that progressed to the semi-finals.

The school was runner-up in 2023 and returned with the same three competitors to succeed against Cranbrook School in the 2024 grand final in front of record number of spectators.

Director of High School Mooting, Assistant Professor Kylie Fletcher, Faculty of Law, says achieving second place last year was an amazing accomplishment “but returning this year to take out first place in another highly impressive final is testament to the team’s dedication, hard work and skill.”

Assistant Professor Kylie Fletcher is the Director of High School Mooting.

The grand final is traditionally held in one of the Law Faculty’s moot courts but was moved to the larger Princeton Room to accommodate the audience.

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“The standard of mooting during the preliminary rounds was very high, so the schools that made the semi-final rounds demonstrated exceptional skills,” says Faculty of Law Deputy Dean Associate Professor Louise Parsons.

For the first time in the competition’s history, a mock trial was included as part of the grand final day experience.

This enabled high school students and guests to follow the highlights of the same fictional legal matter from trial to appeal.

Current Bond law students and staff acting out aspects of the trial started the trial, with the audience then watching the two secondary school teams argue the same matter on appeal during the grand final.

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The attentive crowd watched two Bond law students, acting as counsel, conduct examination in chief and cross examination of a third Bond law student, in the role of the witness.

“There were many instances of ‘objection your honour’, and other things that you see at trial,” says Associate Professor Parsons.

Students taking part in the grand final presented their arguments in front of the Honourable Robert Gotterson AO (retired judge of the Queensland Supreme Court of Appeal), retired Judge John Newton (retired from the Queensland District Court), and Associate Professor Wendy Bonython (the Faculty’s Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching).

Understanding ethics, legal arguments and the art of listening

Among other things, Professor Parsons says mooting provides students with the opportunity to:

  • Learn more about the legal system and the law
  • Road-test a law-school-like activity
  • Refine teamwork skills – Students work as a team to research, develop and practice their submissions
  • Develop critical thinking skills – In most moots, the teams are appearing for a (fictional) client appealing (or responding to an appeal of) a (fictional) judgment. Among other things, students analyse and critically evaluate that judgment (and the relevant law) and develop arguments in favour of their client (including those that pre-emptively address the other side’s arguments)
  • Navigate and work with complexity and detail – Students rely on the relevant law and develop their arguments within the boundaries of that law. In the context of high school mooting, students work with prescribed legal cases and statutory provisions
  • Develop oral advocacy skills – Students use their oral advocacy skills to persuade the judges of their submissions
  • Consider ethics – Students are reminded to be mindful of a lawyer’s ethical duties, such as the duty to not mislead the court, in developing and making their submissions. 

Training ground for law students

“Many of the students who pursue mooting have an interest in studying law,” Professor Parsons told EducationDaily.

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Bond University Faculty of Law Deputy Dean, Associate Professor Louise Parsons, described the standard as “very high”.

“However, students with other career interests also participate. Mooting skills are largely transferrable and developing those skills assists students in the pursuit of study and careers in other disciplines.”

Assistant Professor Kylie Fletcher told EducationDaily the mock trial featured a Bond law student playing the role of the fictional plaintiff.

“This was a teenage boy who had suffered injuries at an 18th birthday party. As plaintiff, he claimed compensation on the basis that a duty of care owed to him was breached, and that his own encouragement of, and participation in, the dangerous behaviour that led to the injury did not constitute a voluntary assumption of risk.”

Another Bond law student acted as his counsel, extracting evidence about the events at the fictional party, with a third Bond law student performing the role of the counsel for the defendants, “and he strenuously objected to some of the questioning, just as you would see in a real court”.

“The audience could see the interplay between examination in chief and cross-examination in this re-enacted court scene,” says Assistant Professor Fletcher

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“The role of trial judge was played by a Bond academic, who made decisions on objections raised and delivered a mock verdict. Once the trial experience had concluded, we explained how the matter had progressed from trial to appeal and handed the matter over to the two high school teams who argued the matter on appeal in the Grand Final of the National High School Mooting Competition.”

Professor Parsons says the audience was captivated by the “very close” Grand Final and says “both teams demonstrated exceptional advocacy skills that impressed the judges”.

But, in the end, just one team could be the mooting champion – and honour that went he three students from a small girls’ school in metropolitan Melbourne.

“The judges were impressed with Fintona Girls’ School’s engagement with the Bench and their flexible conversational approach.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live