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Remembering Eve, Northshire County Council and the Wonders of Mooting

Each and every year, hundreds of new students embark on a law degree with the Open University. People from different backgrounds and ethnicities, men, women, young, old all facing their own individual challenges but all also united in their pursuit of legal knowledge and know how. That is the beauty of the Open University Law Society. It is a society where everyone is welcome, where everyone can take part as much or as little as they want or are able to do and importantly it’s a place where students (and former students) help fellow students and where students can learn from other students’ experiences, where tips and skills are passed along freely and willingly, knowledge of talks and events communicated, training contract open days, pupillage fairs, essay competitions, debates and moots shared selflessly. The Society is a community and one that I am proud to be part of.

I have been absolutely privileged to have been elected to various roles on the OULS Committee over the last three years and even though I decided it was time to hang up my hat in that regard it got me thinking about when I first joined the OULS and my first time mooting, Ever!

I can still remember how nervous I was when I entered my first internal moot competition, not knowing anyone on the day and having never before mooted. Assumption, and not reading my instructions correctly got the better of me that day. Having submitted a one-sided skeleton for the respondent I had, incorrectly, assumed that I was therefore arguing that side of the case. I hadn’t read the brief properly and so it was only just minutes before the moot when my opposite, Mr Peter Savory, introduced himself that I learned of my error. I remember thinking, although fleetingly, whether to just disappear and head home. Instead, I stayed and thought – what the hell just give it a shot!

Whilst I did not do particularly great, I look back on it as a baptism of fire – I loved it! Inadvertently being inadequately prepared, I was obviously extremely nervous but something strange happened. Once I was on my feet - I just began with what I did know, the formalities to start with and the rest just flowed. No doubt I wasn’t very good but that wasn’t the point to me, I may even have been cringeworthy rubbish but it didn’t matter. The reason it didn’t really matter was because I was on my feet, I really was doing it.

I was nervous as hell but I was loving it all the same and, on the day, I was also pleased and somewhat relieved when it became obvious how much I had learnt of the case and its precedents on both sides without realising it and so I was able to provide fairly persuasive albeit somewhat ‘ad hoc’ arguments for the Appellant and moreover I managed to stand up to most judicial interventions pretty well too.

It’s hard to explain the enjoyment of mooting but I always try. When I was the OULS Master of Moots in 2017-2018, we held several mooting workshops and I always tried to persuade as many as I could to do a mock submission because, without exception it seems, those that did all felt the same exhilaration afterwards, it was like a roller-coaster and all of us couldn’t wait to get strapped back in and have another round. At the social afterwards those that hadn’t often regretted not doing so because the sheer excitement and buzz of those that had was tangible.

Eve v Northshire County Council was an original moot problem (OMP) written by Professor Keith Stanton and was used in the 2015 University of Bristol Inter-Varsity Mooting which an OULS team won. It centres on the principles of duty of care to visitors and such duties owed under the Occupiers Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984. In the problem Eve, a not very observant 13-year-old girl, ignored or failed to see warning signs in a park about the dangers of rocks in a lake. She dived in and seriously injured herself on a submerged rock.

At the OULS We have used Eve’s scenario for so long and in so many workshops and competitions that we often joked that she was probably a married women with two kids by now and she almost has honorary membership of the OULS.

Here’s the thing though, it was through Eve that I got selected to represent the OULS in the Inner Temple inter-varsity Moot and whilst I and my superb partner Georgia Palmer got knocked out in the quarter final the moot problem that time was set around the principle of proprietary estoppel and the promise of inheritance that was relied upon. As much as I appreciated Eve and the OLA 1957 and OLA 1984, I had never heard of proprietary estoppel before yet I was hooked. The Doctrine fascinated me and still does. I can honestly say that having researched proprietary estoppel thoroughly during that Inner Temple moot helped me obtain a distinction in my Equity trusts and land W302 module. Without that distinction I would not have obtained the First-class Award, without that Inner Temple moot I would not have loved proprietary estoppel so much and without Eve I would not have been selected for the Inner Temple competition.

So, whilst I strongly recommend trying mooting to everyone, attending any workshops you can and putting yourself forward for selection to external competitions, what I really want to say is…….

Thank you Eve!

Written By: Mike Linnane

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