Nayra is a young Egyptian International Law practitioner. She currently works for UNHCR, Cairo as Senior Refugee Status Determination (RSD) Assistant. She holds Diploma of International Law, Ain Shams University. Nayra developed passion for International Law since her university years. She acted as a team member of the first Egyptian team to qualify for the International Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition by Oxford University in April 2013. Her team won the Regional Rounds of the competition in Qatar and she won “the Best Oralist in the Finals” award.
Four years have passed since my first moot court experience. While the term “moot court” is quite familiar to many law students in Europe and the U.S it is still relatively unknown in my country and my region. Before I start with outlining my lessons learnt, let me first elaborate what a moot court actually is. In moot court competitions, participants argue and present imaginary cases in front of simulated courts to get a glimpse of how judical proceedings work in practise. For me the journey of experiencing my first MOOT court came with another dimension that changed me personally. I developed a deep passion for research and reading about the relevant cases. Even after I was done with the whole experience, I found myself following moot courts everywhere and even organizing moot courts myself. And finally last year, I earned the best oralist award in the regional rounds of a moot court competition in media law & human rights organized by Oxford University. If you are getting ready for your first mooting experience, here are my top seven tips for you:
Be confident: Confidence is an important attribute, especially if you are responsible for the oral pleadings. Always try to stay calm and make sure that your body language does not reflect stress or anxiety. Even if you are very nervous inside, you can learn how to not show it on the outside. Take your time before answering questions imposed by the judge and if you need time to think, you can simply ask the judge to repeat the question or you could politely request to answer the question during your rebuttal. Do not forget to address the question during the rebuttal if you ask for this, otherwise you might lose marks. Pay attention to the thin fine line between confidence and arrogance. The later would probably leave a bad impression about you. Never attack your opponents personally or show disrespectful attitude or body language.
Know the facts: I cannot think of anything more important than knowing the facts of the case while you are getting prepared for the competition. Summarize the facts of the case and filter the unimportant facts to help you memorize and focus on the important ones. It is also highly recommended to link the facts of the case to any real events, if applicable. This can help you remember the facts and it would widen your knowledge of realistic application of the legal problem.
Have a structure: Keep both your memorials and your oral pleadings structured. Put yourself in the judges’ shoes. In most of the cases, you won’t be the first one to appeal before the judges. It is your task to keep them attentive and following your points. Structured content is the best way to achieve this task. Before you start your oral pleadings, give a quick presentation of the main headings and sub-headings that you will address during your pleadings. Also, during the transitions from point to another, give a reminder of the points that you have addressed and link them with your next point. Structured content is not only helpful for the judges but it is also very helpful to you in case your oral pleading is interrupted by questions.
Don’t fear language barriers: There is no doubt that mooting in your second language is an extra challenge that is not in your favor. I relate to your concerns that it is simply not entirely fair to compete with others in their native language while you are struggling with the foreign language. This is a very valid point; but mooting is not about testing your command of a particular language. Mooting is all about your legal skills and the art of persuasive advocacy. Judges understand that you are not native speaker and they appreciate the fact that you are pleading in a language different from your mother tongue. If you still need more evidence, check the official website of the Price Medial Law Court Competition. Since the competition started in 2008 to 2016, only once a native English speaking team, from USA, won the International Rounds in 2009.
Read: Reading is cruical before the competition. The more you read, the more your mind will be packed with information to support your claims. Do not forget to read the basic materials such as: the scoring sheets that have the scoring criteria, the rules of the competition that include the scope and the jurisdiction of the court, preparation materials often available on the website of the competition and the rules for drafting the memorials and citation. Make sure you digested the case law and other supporting materials from different wide jurisdictions. It is also in your favor to refer to cases that are not mentioned in your written memorials. This will leave the judge with the impression that you are not limited to the information mentioned in your memorials and you keep your sources updated.
Be flexible: Flexibility should be an innate trait of a good lawyer. The decision to renounce a weak argument for a stronger one requires flexibility. If the judge asks you to focus on one or two points of your argument and to ignore the rest of your arguments, do not panic!. This should not be an issue if you are ready with a well-structured pleading. A mind map can help you to quickly navigate in your oral pleadings and address the judges’ questions spontaneously. Flexibility is also a keyword for proper time management. Depending on how frequently the judges interrupt you, manage your time and allocate the minutes according to the importance of each legal argument. Stay flexible also and be prepared to defend any side of the case, whether applicant or respondent. Ultimately, it is very important to liberate yourself from any written statements during the oral pleading. Try your best not to read from papers during your presentation before the judge. Reading from papers, in most of the cases, will lead to monotonous performance.
Remain ethical: Last but not least, your ethics during the competition will leave the impression that will have an impact beyond the competition. Stay motivated and approach the competition in a good spirit. It is all about learning and connecting with a growing network of law professionals and students. Do not hesitate to alert the organizers of the competition if you notice any mistakes in the scoring that would add undeserved marks to your team. I recall that in my year 2013, the spirit of the competition prize was introduced for the first time to value a team member who had the persistence to participate in the competition although the rest of his team members were not issued visas to the UK.
The 2015 Ames Moot Court Competition – Final Round