The Grand Final of the Herbert Smith Freehills Disability Mooting Championship 2021: Oxford v Cambridge was held online in front of an audience from across the country.

Jake Emerson and Oliver Clement, of Magdalen College, University of Oxford, won the prestigious Herbert Smith Freehills Disability Mooting Championship 2021: Oxford v Cambridge after the high quality of advocacy of both teams ‘blew’ the audience away. The Cambridge team, Jonty Yin and Saifullah Shah, of Downing College, were the very capable runners-up. The Grand Finalists had to get through two days of mooting to reach the final stage of the competition. Twelve teams of two students, six teams from Oxford and six from Cambridge, took part. Preliminary rounds also took place remotely, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The moot problem focussed on equality law, housing law and nuisance, centring on a disagreement between a disabled tenant and her landlord.

A screenshot from the Grand Final of the moot.

Reflecting on their involvement in the event, Oliver Clement from Oxford’s winning team said:

The HSF Disability Moot is critical in raising awareness of the difficulties, often unseen, those with disabilities face. The event, as a whole, did justice to these aims. I would like to thank the organisers and the participants for making this year such a great competition.

His co-counsel, Jake Emerson, added:

It was an honour to be involved in such an important initiative to place the legal spotlight on the often-overlooked issues faced by disabled people and to listen to such an engaging panel discussion.

This exciting mock court case competition aimed to showcase the intellectually demanding study of disability and the law. The Grand Final was watched by an online audience of 75 people. The moot is one of the flagship events of the Faculty of Law and the Oxford University Disability Law and Policy Project, and was followed by a panel discussion. Grand Final judges included Professor Susan Bright, Professor of Land Law, McGregor Fellow, Oxford Faculty of Law; Nicholas McBride, Director of Studies in Law, University of Cambridge and Dan Hudson, Corporate Crime and Investigations Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills. 

Runner-up, Jonty Yin, from Cambridge’s Grand Final team, commented: 

It was fantastic to moot in front of such a distinguished panel and was a unique opportunity to practice my advocacy. I found it particularly rewarding to moot on disability law, in particular due to my dyspraxia.

Team-mate Saifullah Shah said:

This was a unique and invaluable experience; the insightful moot problem and our friendly rivalry with Oxford made it a memorable occasion and an achievement to take pride in.

The event is supported by the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. Tim Leaver, Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, is one of the founders of the event and judged the early semi-final rounds. Tim said:

The standard of mooting, and indeed the problem setting, in this year’s annual HSF Disability Mooting Championship blew us all away.  We were, once again, delighted to partner with the Oxford Law Faculty and the Disability Law and Policy Project for the seventh consecutive year. The issues discussed are not just hypothetical; they are real. They touch on genuine challenges that are faced by people with disabilities on a daily basis.

He continued:

The fundamental importance of speaking openly about these matters, and highlighting them to the next generation of lawyers and policy makers should not be underestimated. This year’s panel discussion was exceptional - the clarity of thought and argument expressed gave us all a master class in advocacy, and many lessons should be learned.

Following a week which saw Israeli Minister, Karine Elharrar, excluded from COP26 because of the lack of wheelchair accessibility, the panel discussion, which followed the Grand Final, was particularly relevant. It asked: Does the National Disability Strategy do enough to address the twin crises of Climate Change and life post-COVID-19 Pandemic?  

The session’s keynote chair was Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK. Kamran is listed in the Shaw Trusts 2018 Power 100 list of Britain’s most influential disabled people and made it to the top 10 in their 2020 list. Speakers included: Professor Peter Beresford OBE, Visiting Professor at the University of East; Dr Sasha Kosanic, Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University; Phillip Wilcox, author of The Future is Autonomous: The U.S. and China Race to Develop the Driverless Car; Jumoke Abdullahi, Communications & Media Officer at Inclusion London; Jane Hatton, Founder of Evenbreak; Dr Kay Inckle, Campaigns and Policy Manager at Wheels for Wellbeing. Panellists discussed what tensions exist between disability rights and evolving environmental legislation and policy. They also explored how we can use the twin challenges of Climate Change and the COVID-19 pandemic to design more inclusive employment, including transport and active accessible travel.

A screenshot of the panel discussion.

Our thanks go to Herbert Smith Freehills for their ongoing financial support of this event and to Charlotte Kelly, DPhil in Socio-legal Studies, University of Oxford, the principal author of the excellent moot problem.

A recording of the Grand Final of the HSF Disability Mooting Championship 2021 is available below: 

A recording of the Panel Discussion on Does the National Disability Strategy do enough to address the twin crises of Climate Change and life post-COVID-19 Pandemic? is available below: