Imogen Burton, student support officer at the College of Law, points out: "Advocacy and drafting are important skills and when employers may only have two minutes to look at a CV, winning a prize for them may make the difference."

The European Intervarsity Debate provides students with the opportunity to present their arguments before a panel of judges, lawyers and legal journalists and was won last year by University College Dublin. Chris Perrin, recruitment partner at Clifford Chance, says: "In addition to gaining important debating experience and meeting students from a range of European Universities, students are be able to appreciate a number of different views on a single subject, and see the varied debating styles across Europe."

In moot court competitions, students prepare cases and debate arguments like lawyers before a judge in a simulated court environment. Those chosen to compete for their university are seen by firms as the best at their university even if they don't progress that far in the competitions.

Andrea Luff, of Nottingham Trent University's law department, says: "Mooting develops valuable skills. It also looks good on the CV."

This year, Lovell White Durrant and The Observer are co-sponsoring the English Speaking Union (ESU) Moot Competition, a national moot dealing with English law which drew representatives from 64 universities last year.

Richard Chambers, the youth development officer at the ESU, explains: "Mooting provides law students with an opportunity to gain experience in their future role of law advocates, both intended barristers and solicitors.

"Taking part does not just show skill in handling legal material but also a wish to practise the art of forensic and persuasive argument in an effective manner while gaining confidence in a courtroom setting."

Lovell White Durrant decided to co-sponsor the moot to protect the future of advocacy. Cavan Taylor, Lovells senior partner, says: "Advocacy skills are extremely useful whether or not you intend to make a career in the law."

SJ Berwin & Co's solicitor advocate Alex Leitch agrees. "A case doesn't come to life until it is argued in court. Points which seem more or less attractive assume more or less weight when they are debated," he says.

Students also need to learn statute law and case law and develop research skills.

"That's what it's all about," explains Leitch. "For the future advocate, mooting is not simply desirable, it is essential."