How to Prepare a Moot Court Competition
Recommendations for the ECSL participants to the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition
Recognising that not all who take part in the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition have experience in mooting, and that many of the European participants are having to write and speak in English rather and not in their native tongue, the Board of the European Centre for Space Law asked Professor Back Impallomeni of Italy and Professor Francis Lyall of the United Kingdom to prepare some comments/advice based upon their extensive experience as judges in various of the regional rounds of the competition. What follows are suggestions, hints, notes and reminders
One: Getting Started!
· Read and understand the Rules of the Competition. If you do not understand a provision of the Rules, ask the Regional Organiser, who may be able to deal with the matter, or in an appropriate instance will refer the matter to the IISL Organising Committee. The Rules can be found here.
· Comply with the Rules.
· There are penalties set out in the Annex to the Rules for failure to comply with the Rules. Do not let yourself down because of a loss of marks through penalties.
· Meet all deadlines, in particular the deadlines for requests for clarifications and for submission of the Memorials.
· Look for and learn the right, formal expressions to address the judges (after all, they are highly qualified scholars, and if you get to the finals, they are judges of the International Court of Justice) and the other teams during the competition.
· Be sure that you have a good coach, able and willing to guide your research, revise your work, time and listen to you when you train for the orals.
· Practice your English (written and spoken) with native speakers as much as possible (in particular the legal terms).
Two: The Memorials
· The mark for the Memorial is fifty per cent of your final total mark. It makes sense to research thoroughly and do a good job. Some teams have different people writing the Applicant and the Respondent Memorials. Others have the whole team work on both. Neither system appears to be better than the other. Do what works for your team. But it does make sense to identify who in the team writes more clearly. No matter how you divide the workload, argue the points with each other. If you write a draft, or a draft part, do not be so proud that you defend your words to the death. Putting your argument into words in a written draft concentrates the mind. It also helps discussion of the ‘case’ you are making for your ‘client’. Very few drafts cannot be improved by discussion and argument.
· The winning (i.e. best) briefs each year are printed in the annual Proceedings of the International Institute of Space Law. You may find it helpful to see what your predecessors have done.
· Writing the Applicant and the Respondent Memorials help you refine your argument both as Applicant and as Respondent showing strengths and weaknesses in your case.
· Pay attention to such matters as font size for text and footnotes, page layout, length and similar requirements.
· When writing give yourselves sufficient time to lay the draft aside for a few days, and then re-read it. When you are writing you know what you mean by the words and sentences you use. But to someone else, what seems clear to you may be obscure or ambiguous. By laying it aside for a few days you will be able to read the text with fresh eyes, and will often be able to improve the flow or the language. Sometimes an argument has to be re-shaped to make it more coherent or clearer.
· Be consistent in your method of citation. Get the names of cases and treaties right.
· Use a spell-checker. If you do not have one, if possible get someone else to proof-read your text. Someone who has taken part in the drafting knows what to expect and may not notice spelling errors etc. Sloppiness in language and spelling, including both inconsistencies and errors, does not impress a reader.
Three: The Oral Argument.
· Practise! Your coach, members of staff or members of a Moot Court team from a previous year can help by acting as judges when you are practising. They should try to interrupt your flow by asking questions. You must know your material well enough to cope with interruptions and then resume your argument.
· The Rules for Oral Argument set out the time limits, and require the time period to be shared between members of the team. Decide who is to speak to which section or sections, and adjust the time to the importance (length?) of the argument to be made in each. Save a little time for rebuttal or surrebuttal.
· The first speaker should introduce the members of the team, and indicate the division of time between the speakers.
· Speak ‘to’ the judges: do not speak ‘at’ them. Make eye-contact with the judges – do not speak to the floor, the ceiling or a corner of the room. If you can, smile when starting off at least. Relax – the judges are not cannibals.
· Never directly address your opponents; and vilify them only indirectly and in the politest of terms – they are always your “esteemed opponents”, or “esteemed counsel for respondent/applicant”.
· Do not speak too fast. If you have more words to say than can fit in the time allowed, you have too many words. Be concise. Note what is said below about questions. If you finish your presentation within the time you have set, do not improvise to fill the time.
· Do not shout, but you must be audible at least to the judges and your opponents, and preferably to the audience.
· The Timekeeper will indicate at intervals when you have 5, 2, and 1 minute left. Pay attention to this. The presiding judge will ask you to finish your sentence when the bell goes. You may ask for a limited extra period – say one minute – if you have been interrupted by questions from the bench. The presiding judge may grant this if the interruptions have been extensive. US judges tend to interrupt more than European, and base their questions on the content of the Memorial.
· Know your Memorial well, and be prepared to defend what is said in it. You may be asked something from it, which is not in your prepared oral argument.
· Do not read out parts of your Memorial. This does not impress. The judges will have read the Memorial and will recognise it. They may even follow it, turning over the pages as you go.
· Use a written text if you have to. If you can, speaking to notes is better. It allows you some flexibility. Short sentences usually convey argument better than lengthy sentences.
· The judges may ask questions. If you do not understand the question, ask for it to be repeated. If the question is long and complicated, ask for it to be re-phrased.
· Be concise in your reply to a question. The time taken up by questions and replies counts against your time allocation.
· Reserve only a little time for rebuttal. Use that time to present a counter-argument to some of what your opponents have said. New arguments for your own position are prohibited and may result in a penalty.
· Surrebuttal needs a very short time only. In surrebuttal you can argue only against the rebuttal.
· It is possible to decline to use your rebuttal, or your surrebuttal period if you consider your opponents’ arguments do not need to be countered. It is rare not to use the rebuttal period.
Prof. E. Back-Impallomeni
Prof. F. Lyall
Last update: 15 December 2014