Saturday, February 18, 2017

My First Mooting Experience

Last night concluded the Preliminary Rounds for the WongPartnership International Commercial Arbitration Moot 2017, which is also most probably my last round in the competition hahaha. It's all right, I wasn't gunning to enter the finals anyway -- it was more of an exposure kind of thing to introduce myself to the world that is mooting. I'd like to share a bit of my experience and thoughts after this whole process (which is not very long...but still), starting from the beginning.

Signing up
It was really close to the deadline for applications and I was still unsettled about whether I should commit to the competition. I prayed for wisdom and after that, I kept getting nudged/prompted to take a leap of faith and go for it. So I signed up and didn't think much about it until they emailed me on a fateful Wednesday afternoon, in the middle of a Torts tutorial to tell me who my opponent was. Imagine my shock when I saw "Joshua Foo Wei Ming" in the email...LMAO. I was really anxious and immediately texted Shona to ask Kyle if Josh Foo's Chinese name was Wei Ming, hoping with all my heart that there was another Joshua Foo in Law School HAHAHA. But to no avail, of course. :( I was going to go against the frickin' moot god of NUS Law and I was terrified.

After panicking and consulting Peter over an hour-long phone call as I walked home, I had better rationalised within myself and decided that going against Josh was an overall good thing -- who better to learn from, right? If it was experience/exposure I signed up for, I sure as hell was going to get it. In hindsight, I really think it was part of God's plan. He urged and gave me the confidence to sign up for this and provided me with a challenge that would stretch me and help me learn lots. ^_^

Writing the memorandum
After knowing who our opponents were and our positions, we had to submit a written memorandum (memo) outlining our arguments in preparation for the oral presentations. It was a bit of a jump from what we had done previously in LARC, but nothing too tough I feel. I had a few of my seniors' LARC memos to refer to so I thiiiiiiiiink it was not too bad. Researching was not that difficult either, but efficiently digesting the relevant laws and formulating arguments/a strategy was tough.

I started out literally nowhere and amassed a bunch of information relating to the issue (restraint of trade and penalty clauses) but had no idea how to structure and shape them into a coherent, strategic line of argument. It really helped that I had a few friends who had signed up for the moot as well, and we did discuss about the problem together and that helped me form some of my arguments!! Maybe it's because I have no confidence yet so I felt safer discussing my ideas with someone and receiving validation or else I would not dare to pursue it HAHA. :( Something I have to work on I suppose - trusting my gut instinct (which is hopefully reliable) and having faith in myself!!

I had trouble with formatting my memo on the day of the submission itself (1800) so I texted some of my friends for help but they all didn't really know what to do either. Panicking a little (because it seemed like you can get penalised for the smallest of errors?!), I texted Josh for help and he offered to help me format my memo! For transparency's sake, he sent me his first before I went over to the MDC room to find him. It turned out we haven't learnt how to format the Table of Authorities/Contents etc. yet in LARC so he taught me how. And he was somewhat amused that I manually typed in my lousy Table of Authorities lmao but in hindsight it's really quite cute HAHA. It was really really nice of him and he gave me some moot advice after. :-)

Oral presentation
The oral presentations was held a week after the memo submissions at the WongPartnership office itself. Josh and I were in the first slot so, at 6pm. I didn't really prepare much before going into the moot - rather, I didn't prepare effectively. After going through the ordeal moot, I realised that it is extremely important to rehearse, rehearse and rehearse speaking out your arguments without referring to a script. Knowing your case inside out, and your arguments upside down (not the best metaphor but keeping it for cuteness' sake) is very useful, especially when having to respond to the judges' questions during the presentation itself.

During our session, Josh presented first because he was the claimant, and he attacked quite a few of my arguments which I did not know how to counter because it seemed like the tribunal agreed with him. One of the points he raised, which I had prepared to counter, was knocked down by the tribunal so that killed one good "rebuttal" of mine HAHA. I was really thrown into a state of entropy - there was so much going on, arguments crossing issues and I was just trying to keep up with everything and didn't have time/wasn't fast enough to process and formulate new arguments.

When it came to my turn to present, I could hear the nervous shakiness in my voice and the huge disparity between my tone and Josh's. His embodied a confident presence while mine was...oh man it's really too embarrassing to describe. I felt like a vulnerable little girl trying to make her way around a huge labyrinth. Yikes. Never want to relive that again. Anyway, the arbitrators were a little easier on me, and posed their questions in a friendlier tone. Unfortunately, I was still unable to answer and conceded on a point. One, I didn't understand the question properly and two, I just couldn't process fast enough, and in that state of panic and nervousness, I was truly mind-blocked. What this taught me is that I need to read extensively on the law before entering into the moot court, to really understand the issues and formulate my own (unique) stand on it that I truly believe in and can stand up for. This would definitely help in considering the arbitrators' questions in relation to the stand I have already chosen to adopt. I guess it's really just to have SOMETHING TO KEEP ME GROUNDED. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT because I felt I was floating in the middle of a sea of argumentation and stands and couldn't decide which direction to swim in. That resulted in me having zero counter-points and looking like a hundred per cent noobus doofus.

I also made the fatal mistake of not reserving time for sub-rebuttals at the end, so they did not give me any time to rebut. Ah well, it was really a gone case from there already and I kind of gave up the fight by then. Heh. :'(

At the end of the session, the arbitrators gave us comments and they were sugarcoating it for me, I think. They talked about Josh first and he received his feedback really gracefully and charismatically?! Wow really need to learn this skill instead of looking like a weak muppet just sitting there smiling and nodding. He helped save me by saying "She's actually a Year 1" and the arbitrators were like "Really? Well then, it's a commendable effort for a first-year, I actually thought you were a Year 2!" and I blushed a bit and Josh "Aiseh!"-ed in encouragement LOL but then again, I don't know whether he was genuine about it because truth be told, my performance was rly horrible even for a Year 1. Thanks Josh, really appreciate it.

Final thoughts
All in all, it was a catastrophic moot but definitely a valuable experience. Now I know what are my strengths and weaknesses in mooting and I can work to ensure my LARC moot will be a much much better one!!

On a sidenote, I got to talk a lot to Rachel Ang in the holding room and I really like her - I think we can click really well. :-)

sickest first moot opponent ever - got completely rekt but issok can only get better from here!!!

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