29 November 2019

Oxbridge prizes disability moots

Herbert Smith Freehills showcases promising new legal talent at the first-ever Oxford v Cambridge disability moot as 18 teams challenged for the prize

By Dr David Cowan


As the UK marks disability history month, Herbert Smith Freehills' ability network has sponsored and helped organise the first-ever Oxford v Cambridge disability mooting championships, alongside members of the Oxford and Cambridge law faculties, showcasing promising new legal talent as 18 teams challenged for the prize.

Eager to learn

The event, held at Worcester College, Oxford, saw students Liam McKenna and Stephanie Bruce-Smith of Merton College, Oxford, win the top prize. Cambridge were runners up, with Alice Defriend and Cara Donegan, also receiving a prize for competing. The final was judged by Professor Anne Davies, Herbert Smith Freehills Partner Adam Johnson QC and Professor Alison Young. The competition consisted of two-days of mooting, which saw 18 teams of students go head-to-head in preliminary rounds, then semi-finals to reach the final stage of the competition. Students competed in pairs and a total of nine teams from Oxford and nine from Cambridge took part, with each moot lasting for an hour. The moot problem and facts this year centred on disability discrimination, in an employment context for an employee with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). Dr Marie Tidball, director of Oxford University's disability law and policy project, said “We have had wonderful feedback from the mooters on what they have learned about disability law and considering wider issues affecting disabled people. They are eager to take their learning forward into their future careers.”

Raising awareness

Herbert Smith Freehills has been sponsoring and working with the Oxford University disability law and policy project to organise the Oxford University disability moot for the past six years, but this is the first time the championship has been opened up to Cambridge students. The event aims to promote the intellectual study of disability and its intersection with domestic and international law. The mooting championship is designed to promote the study of disability and the law and, in so doing, seeks to raise awareness of legal issues facing people with disabilities and the need to increase the representation of disabled people within the legal profession. Winner Liam McKenna said “It was a joy to be involved,” explaining “the moot problem was one of the best I have worked with… the issues it raised, on mental health and the Equality Act, were very close to issues that I have seen in real life when working with a charity focussed on equalities law.” Cambridge runner-up, Cara Donegan, added “I would highly recommend participating in the moot to everyone as I believe that, due to the importance of raising awareness of the subject area, participation in this moot is much more meaningful compared to other competitions.”

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