While Moot competitions have been common in the US for many years, they seem to be expanding exponentially both in the US and abroad. The reasons for this increase in popularity are quite numerous and include:
and for moots like this moot: the opportunity to travel to other – sometimes distant - countries and provide an opportunity to meet law students from other countries.
- Breaking the boredom of class lectures
- Expanding the depth of knowledge in an interesting area of law
- Developing “real world” lawyer ing skills
- Improving employment opportunities
But perhaps the most important benefit is that “mooting” may cause students to come to realize that the study of law – like the practice of law - can be exhilarating, challenging and very rewarding.
The LAWASIA moot does all of the above … and does them very well and, in addition, has benefits that, to my knowledge, are not present in other moots. The first in the extraordinary opportunity to participate in the region’s most prestigious law conference – the 21st LAWASIA Conference which brings together the region’s most distinguished lawyers, judges and scholars – not from a single country but from all the countries in the regions and from beyond. I hope all students participating in the Moot were able to take advantage of this unique opportunity and attend as many Conference sessions as their schedules allowed.
The second – and equally important – unique feature of the LAWASIA Moot is its co-sponsorship by a prestigous local law school and the involvement of a large number of students from the host law school. While some of moot team members may have thousands of “frequent flyer miles,” some others may have found the trip to be a unique and possible intimidating experience. Being met at the airport and taken to the hotel by other law students undoubtedly relieved any anxieties which might have existed. In addition, having the opportunity to meet “the competition” in a friendly informal atmosphere makes us all realize there is much more to the LAWASIA Moot that the competition itself.
But there was the competition – and that’s what we all came for. For most students, it was not like anything they have ever done in their legal studies. Most law school curriculums focus on learning the basic principles of a wide range of legal topics, as well as their historical, cultural and, in some cases, religious influences. Students may then be required to apply them to situations which where there is a “right answer.” But to paraphrase something a famous US Supreme Court Justice one noted, law is not black and white but gray and not just one shade of gray but many shades each blending into the other. In many cases the dispute isn’t between right and wrong but between two right … or possibly two wrongs … and one must prevail.
This year’s problem highlights such a conflict: Donavale has a right to protect its territorial sovereignty and the people of Agitha have an inherent right – and in this case, a constitutional right - to self governance and independence. Burgunden has, at least arguably has, a right - if not a duty – to help people the people of Agitha when their rights … and lives are impaired. Unfortunately – as is so often true in our world – there is no easy answer – someone’s rights will be protected and the rights of others will be infringed.
The court hearing the dispute must make that difficult resolution and counsel (agents) representing the parties must try to convince the court that, while the country they represent many not be entirely without guilt, it is the one which, under the law and the facts, is entitled to prevail in this case.
The analytical and argumentative skills required to fulfill this obligation are different from – possible the reverse of – what the students learned in law classes. Rather then starting with the facts, finding what seems to be the most applicable law and applying it to the facts in a completely objective manner to reach the proper result, advocates must do this in reverse: begin with the result, examine the facts and look for law which when applied to the facts will yield the desired result, all the while knowing that an equally committed advocate will be doing precisely the same thing in an attempt to persuade the court to reach the opposite result. This can be a daunting task for even the most experienced attorney but an almost overwhelming task for students who have not even completed their legal training.
What has amazed the judges, lawyers and other observers is how well this year’s mooters have met these challenges. The competition was intense and the teams so evenly balanced that all the four teams that advanced to the semifinal round emerged with identical one win and one loss records. Ant the eventual winner – the University of Hong Kong was not merely the best … but the “best of the best"!
But most important, it was fun – an experience which all the mooters and their coaches will long remember.
And we all must never forget that none of this could have happened without the dedication and hard work of Mr. Raphael Tay, the Moot Organizing Committee and staff and the Taylor’s University College students. Thank you all!