Law Moot Court Competitions – Traditional Action and Innovation
Around a decade ago, majority legal institutions in Pakistan were not even aware of the existence of the term “Law Moot Court Competition (LMCC)”, let alone being acquainted with how it is conducted. Today, however, academic institutes and certain organizations have adopted recourse to the LMCCs for nurturing the advocacy skills of law students at the grass root level.
This Article/blog is intended for acquainting students with the various facets of a LMCC. For that matter, one must initially understand what a LMCC is. Simply put, a LMCC is a fictitious proposition based exercise in which participants have to submit their arguments, verbally and in writing, over the hypothetical issues that they are confronted with. The proposition, more commonly referred to as the “case facts”, is provided by the institution or organization which conducts the LMCC.
GENERALLY ADOPTED BASIC STRUCTURE OF LMCCS
To further simplify, let us understand it’s generally adopted basic structure step by step. Firstly, the institution or organization which intends to conduct the LMCC provides the registered participants with the proposition or the case facts along with the rules of the competition. The hypothetical story narrated in those case facts ends with the issues framed between the fictitious parties, which are generally four but may vary as the drafters of the proposition deem appropriate.
Secondly, based upon that proposition, the participants are required to submit a written submission on behalf of both, or any amount of, parties at dispute as per the case facts. In mooting terms, the written stance over issues on behalf of the applicant/ plaintiff party is termed as “memorial”, which is similar to a plaint and the written stance over issues on behalf of the respondent/ defendant party is termed as “counter-memorial”, which is similar to a written statement. It must be kept in mind that participants are supposed to submit both, memorial and counter-memorial, as for the purpose of the LMCCs, they have to represent both parties in different rounds of the competition.
Thirdly, after submitting the written responses over the issues framed, comes the main body of the competition which is the oral round(s). The participants have to orally argue their cases, in compliance with the prescribed rules of the competition, in a dummy proceeding before a hypothetical court of law. The jurisdiction and mandate of the court and format of oral rounds varies vis-à-vis competition. The participating teams in the oral rounds qualify for advanced rounds based upon their markings by the adjudication panel as the event approaches the final rounds and towards its closure.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR LMCCS
Having a cherishable experience, as a participant and as a judge, in various national and international LMCCs, in Pakistan and abroad, I will now provide the general guidelines for LMCCs based upon my own experiences. These guidelines are a gist of the general approach of the adjudicating panelists, in Pakistan and abroad, which i have argued before.
Firstly, I cannot stress enough over the importance of the written submissions, which generally is taken very lightly. The memorials and counter-memorials are of utmost importance. The marks which a team gains, based upon its written submission, are added to the teams’ overall scoring, which in turn not only decides the overall standings for the participating teams but also impacts the round matchups, which implies that which team will go against which other team during the oral rounds is essentially based upon the memorials/counter-memorials. Therefore, I strongly suggest that a participating team ought to draft its written submission in compliance with the rules of the competition with a thorough research and participants may as well search for the best memorial drafting format online. The best memorials of various international LMCCs are also easily available online for inspiration.
Secondly, for oral rounds, there is a plethora of suggestions however I will identify the most important ones. A participating team, during the oral rounds, must be wary of the following things as a bare minimum:
Knowledge of Facts
It goes without saying that a participant must best forget qualifying for the advanced rounds if he/she is not well versed with the facts of the case. For that matter, being well versed with the facts of the case does not only imply being aware of the events and/or dates of such events which are provided in the proposition but it mainly refers to the scenarios leading to or causing the occurrence of such events. Illustratively, suppose you are defending a State against charges of intervention within the territory of another State before the ICJ in a LMCC. If you are not aware of the timeline, backdrop and history of the events which triggered such intervention, you can never put forth the argument of “self-defence’ or any other argument which would be satisfactorily accepted by the panel of the judges. Similarly, if the judge asks you that why the State, which you are representing, failed to go for alternative means for remedying its situation, you won’t be able to address it properly unless you are well versed with the facts of the case. Hence the most basic guideline is the knowledge of relevant facts.
Knowledge of Law
Similar in importance, if not more, is the knowledge of law applicable to the case. Generally, teams are well versed with the facts of the case but a disparity between teams is essentially created by the teams’ knowledge of the applicable law. You must be acquainted with the jurisprudence, history and object of the law upon which you are making reliance. Normally, LMCCs over issues of international law are conducted before the fictitious International Court of Justice (ICJ). For that matter, I repeatedly reiterate upon the point that the Articles 36 and 38 of the Statute of ICJ are a bible for such LMCCs. If you are well versed with the Jurisdiction of the court and the applicable law, you will not only be able to address the questions from the panel over your usage of law but also you will be able to disregard the applicability of law relied upon by your opposing team. Teams which are considered good know how to disregard the applicability of a law, which goes against their case, inter-alia based upon the jurisprudence and cardinal rules of interpretation.
Questions and Answers
In an event where the teams are equally good in their knowledge of facts and law, the factor of addressing the questions asked by the panel plays a decisive role in deciding the winner. In advanced rounds, this is the most pivotal factor. When a judge asks you something, firstly understand what he has asked and then address exactly what he has asked. Be as precise as you can get, try not to beat around the bush as it gives a bad impression. Brush up your legal vocabulary as certain legal phrases give out a good professional impression which sticks to the mind of the judges when he/she is marking you. DO NOT cross talk with a judge and keep a calm and composed stance while answering a question. Negotiate your way into questions and answers and you will do just fine. Bear in mind the fact that you are giving an argument not a presentation and your advocacy skill is essentially tested during the question answer session.
Though termed miscellaneous for the purpose of this Article/Blog, the factors of Style, Poise, Demeanor and Time management create a remarkable difference. The way you dress up and the way you address the court are equally important. A participant is not supposed to bombard the panel or opposing team with a plethora of arguments as qualitative arguments always supersede quantitative ones. Even if you have just two legal arguments over an issue, it will supersede your opponent who has twenty arguments, primarily based upon the fact that you have properly and adequately communicated your two arguments to the panel’s understanding and accord.
The question that whether you should speak slowly or fast, loudly or mildly, is basically irrelevant as I always suggest participants to play on their strengths and not try to imitate someone else’s presentation style forcefully. It doesn’t matter whether you have a loud pitch or otherwise, as far as you are coherent and communicating your argument adequately and within the stipulated time, you are as good as anyone else. Be articulate but not extra profound however if the judge(s) fancy a profound argumentation style, learn how to improvise. Have a confident stature and make your presence felt but there is a fine line between it and being condescending. As far as English fluency and vocabulary goes, it is a concern for many participants but bear in mind the fact that you are not a native English speaker and the panel is aware of this fact. Just convey your point and be confident about what you are saying.
To conclude, an entire book can be published about the technicalities and suggestions for a LMCC, however, in a nutshell, always go by the saying that “the more you sweat in the training ground, the less you bleed in the battle field”. Therefore, study the relevant content in detail and practice as much as you can while keeping the aforementioned basic things in your mind. Moreover, keep in mind that your fate is also a key factor and despite your extensive efforts even if you don’t achieve what you intended, don’t lose hope and learn from your shortcomings because at the end of the day, it’s just a Law Moot Court Competition. Good Luck!