Sunday, July 21, 2019

LUCK (Moot Infinity Stone #6)

There exist six powerful stones in the Moot Court Universe (MCU): LAW, LOGIC, LANGUAGE, LOOKS and LEADERSHIP. We are now in the end-game - presenting the sixth and final stone...

As your powers grow, you're inching closer to the championship. Your opponents crumble in your wake. Matches after matches swing your way.

You're in the final round. A large auditorium sprawls before you. The stage is set. The trophy at the corner gleams.

But at the very last hurdle, you fall to a humbling defeat. Heart-breaking. Soul-crushing. You vow never to moot again...

STOP!

You can't win everything, you know. Sometimes, doing all you can is not enough. Sometimes, even out-performing your opponents may not win the judges' vote.

Sometimes, you lose out because of BAD LUCK...

"Here, take my memorial and cases... I still win"

* * *

Yes, just like any other competition, there's always an element of LUCK in mooting.

After all, the outcome every round of mooting is determined by the subjective preference of judges. It's more like gymnastics than football. There are some objective criteria to guide the judges, of course. But there's still a wide margin of discretion vested in them.

Which is why after suffering defeat, many teams are prone to feeling shocked, hurt or even wronged. They can't wrap their heads around the result. They can't accept losing.

And more often than not, they blame their defeat on BAD LUCK

But how far is it true that your fate is tied to LUCK? And even if true, is there anything you can do to sway the odds to your favour?

Yes, and YES!

* * *

Rule #1: Luck is certain

LUCK is all part of the game.

The sooner you accept and embrace the fact, the better prepared you will be in taming its mischievous ways and effects. Hence, you first need to identify the possible ways that things can go 'wrong'.

You or your teammate falling sick.

Judges not liking your 'style'.

Facts in the moot problem vague and ambiguous.

Tough match-ups against strong teams in the Preliminary Rounds.

Losing the coin-toss in the Advanced Rounds and having to moot as on your 'weaker side'.

And the list goes on.

Also, don't forget to count the times that you 'got lucky'. For luck is random - some your victories may be down to 'good luck', such as your opponent messing up or judges glossing over your flaws. After every round, win or lose, it's imperative to objectively pick out the times LUCK fell your way or your opponent's way.

"Sorry, team. We lost the coin-toss and they picked Respondent..."
* * *

Rule #2: Luck is calculable

It's not possible to anticipate and prepare for every single random incident. Try as you may, the reality is that LUCK cannot be eliminated completely.

For we all have limited time and energy. We can't be chasing shadows and looking out for monsters under the bed at every second. We have to divide our focus evenly in harnessing our powers from the other five stones.

Hence, besides identifying the possible 'risk' factors, you need to weigh their probabilities and impact. You can safely ignore factors that have a low probability of occurrence, and have minimal adverse effect even if they occur (e.g. relationship breakdown - you're a big boy/girl!). More caution should be accorded to 'low probability, high impact' factors. Utmost caution is reserved for 'high probability, high impact' factors.

What constitutes as high risk differs according to individuals and team, of course. 

For instance, if your health is fragile, then you need to watch your diet and get sufficient rest (even if your other teammates are working more hours). Or if your examination dates are close to the competition, you deserve more 'off days' from training. Blind and strict observance to the rule that 'everyone should pull equal weight' only serves to increase the risk of illness and stress striking down your key members.

Ultimately, luck is about risk, and risk can be quantified.

* * *


Rule #3: Luck is controllable

After you have identified the 'high risk, high impact' factors, the next and obvious step is to take preventive measures to guard against such risks.

Illness - watch your health

Subjectivity of judges - be mindful of their preferences and traits based on their background (e.g. you can be more conversational and colloquial in an arbitration setting, but perhaps be more conservative in your language and mannerism if the arbitrator is actually a senior judge).

Poor moot problem - draw as many factual inferences as you can, but don't premise your entire case on such inference and prepare for alternative arguments

Tough match-ups - train your strongest members as 'double agents' to moot for both sides

Coin toss - same as above.

We can't guard against every random eventuality, of course. LUCK is capricious. No one can be a master of fate. But the more steps you take to tame the more dangerous elements of LUCK, the more you stack the odds in your favour.

* * *

Ultimately, one could even say that LUCK is a feature, not a bug, in mooting. The top teams are those who are best at ascertaining, calculating and controlling the infinite probabilities how things can go wrong and how to make them right.

Winners don't rely on good luck to win. Nor do they lose out to bad luck too many times.

In short, winners make their own LUCK.

And this wraps up the Moot Infinity Stone series. It's not meant to be a definitive guide on mooting, of course. Unlike beating Thanos, there's more than one way to victory. Even with all six stones in hand, victory may not always assured. 

For the MCU is not static. New challenges will arise, and new skills will be needed to meet such challenges. And that's the fun of mooting, after all. Mooting evolves. Anyone who tells you that there's a 'best' technique to mooting or that every team recycles the same arguments in competitions is seriously underestimating the limits of law, advocacy and human ingenuity.

The world hasn't seen the peak of mooting yet. The true powers of the six Moot Infinity Stones combined has yet to be unleashed. And it is my duty and honour to train a new generation of young lawyers who will show the world of the infinite possibilities that we can bring about.

Mooting? Hah! This was never just about mooting. The future of the legal profession - that's the end-game.

The adults may be doing all the talking, but the kids are doing all the transformation.

Assemble, mooters! You all are going to change the world, one stone at a time...

Thursday, July 11, 2019

LEADERSHIP (Moot Infinity Stone #5)

There exist six powerful stones in the Moot Court Universe (MCU). We've covered four so far - LAW, LOGIC, LANGUAGE, and LOOKS. Two more stones to complete the Gauntlet...

You've sharpened your skills. You've got the goods. You've won plenty of individual 'best oralist' awards.

And yet, the championship still eludes you. What gives? What more can you do?

Your gaze turns to your co-counsel and other teammates. They're not scoring marks as high as yours. They're not pulling their weight. They're the reason why you keep falling short and losing, right?

WRONG!

Great mooters don't only bring the best out of themselves, but also the best out of others around them. 

Great mooters don't focus on their personal glory, but the collective goal.

Great mooters don't just moot, but lead.


"Who's your daddy?"

* * *

So every mooting team needs a leader.

Now, that's pretty obvious. There must be someone in charge at all times - planning the training schedule, delegating duties, and making important decisions. But those are just managerial duties (usually held by the team 'captain').

But in a mooting context, a 'leader' here refers to the lead counsel, the main oralist, the anchor that holds the team together, in any given round. Such leader need not be the 'captain', nor the most senior mooter, nor even a former leader of previous teams. A leader can be anyone at anytime.

How can that be? If a team has multiple leaders, won't they fight all the time and create countless conflict? Shouldn't a team only have ONE leader?

Not true. Take the Avengers. Yes, Ironman is their official leader. But does he call the shots all the time? Is he always right? Or take the Guardians of the Galaxy (or should it be 'Asgardians of the Galaxy' now?) - Starlord, Rocket and Thor are constantly trading barbs and jostling for the captain's seat. But when crunch times come, everyone closes rank and unites as one force.

The best mooting team is one where every member can rise up to be a leader.


* * *

Rule #1: Leaders storm the front

It's true that every mooting team has a hierarchy. As much as it's nice to treat everyone as equal, some mooters are just better than others for a myriad of reasons - talent, experience, etc. Some mooters will moot more rounds than others. Ultimately, the goal is to win, and winning requires putting your best mooters forward.

But mooting is dynamic. You're only as good as your last round. Past achievements is an indicator, but no guarantee, of future successes. New young stars can grow fast and burn brightly in a short span of time. Superstars can suffer dips in form and confidence. Sickness can strike at anyone all of a sudden.

A moot competition spans over a few months. When a team is first formed, it's fine to fix the hierarchy. But the hierarchy is not immutable, as circumstances can change drastically over time.

Regardless of seniority, you should always be ready to step up to take on new roles. To be the anchor. To lead your team to glory.

Ultimately, it's a team effort. Yes, Ironman eventually nicked the gauntlet from under Thanos' fingertips. But many others took the lead and played an instrumental part beforehand - Hulk reversing the Snap, Captain America standing tall after Ironman and Thor had fallen, Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel stepping up after the men had fallen...

A great mooter is brave enough to rise up whenever the occasion calls for...


"I'm a superhero too!"

* * *

Rule #2: Leaders hold the fort

Often times, an anointed 'leader' is blinded by delusions of grandeur. Ego gets into their head. They can't bear the sight of others displacing them and 'steal their thunder'.

The problem with sticking with a single 'leader' is obvious. If the leader falls, then the entire team falls. The team is only as good as the leader. The other members, consciously or unconsciously, can't improve beyond the standard set by the leader.

In contrast, a team brimming with established and potential leaders can excel in all sorts of challenges thrown their way. Conflict is avoided by cooperation.

In the Avengers, each member take turns beating the bad guys (yes, even Hawkeye has his moments). No one can save the world on their own. The sum of their combined strength is greater than their individual parts.

Every leader has their own flaws and weaknesses. No leader is unbeatable. Hence, there is nothing wrong for a leader to back away, bunker down, and lie in wait to reflect and recuperate whilst others take their place at the front.

A true leader is humble, and does not vie for the Iron Throne.

A great mooter knows when to step aside and let someone else better take charge...


* * *

Rule 3: Leaders bite the bullet

In a team of multiple leaders, who's the best leader then? The best oralist of the Finals? The member with the highest score?

There's no such thing as a 'best leader'. In my experience, any team which has a clearly identifiable 'best leader' is typically a losing team. The team is overly reliant on one person to win. The team isn't allowing others to shine. The team lacks depth and diversity.

In contrast, it's often difficult to identify the 'best leader' in a winning team. Every member played a huge part in the win, at different phases of the competition. A casual outsider may think most highly of Mooter A who won the Best Oralist Award. A more astute observer, however, would be more impressed with Mooter B for having mooted for both sides and the most rounds as the team's 'anchor' (if the oralist ranking is based on average score, it's harder to rank high when mooting more rounds than others).

Who was the MVP in Infinity War and Endgame? Thor for taking down Thanos? Dr. Strange for his foresight? Black Widow for her self-sacrifice? Captain America for tanking and wearing down Thanos? The debate can go on endlessly.

In fact, more often than not, the 'leaders' of many winning teams go unnoticed and don't enough credit. The unsung heroes. The ones toiling behind the scenes.

And best of all, they don't feel too bummed about the lack of recognition. For them, what matters most is winning for the team, even at the expense of individual glory.

A great mooter is unafraid to sacrifice for the greater good...


"No funeral for me?"


* * *

To embrace true LEADERSHIP, you must shed away your misconceptions.

LEADERSHIP isn't personal to anyone.

LEADERSHIP isn't a crown to be jealously guarded.

LEADERSHIP isn't about being celebrated by the rest of the world.

Ultimately, LEADERSHIP is a must-have trait for every aspiring mooter. Every mooter should be able and willing to go the extra mile. Every mooter should understand that everyone (including themselves) can have a bad day - so instead of blaming others for under-performing and messing up, just quietly step in and cover their ass. Every mooter should focus on the end-game.

Even supeheroes are prone to making mistakes (e.g. Ironman in creating Ultron) and getting sloppy (e.g. fatty Thor during Decimation). But such mistakes doesn't make them any less of a leader. Just because your teammates slip up doesn't mean you should give up on the team.

In sum: if you're not prepared to lead, then prepare to lose.

Sounds harsh, but such is the nature of team competitions. Remember, you're not mooting only for yourself, but for your entire team.

So if you want your team to win, then start being a leader.

And with five Moot Infinity Stones revealed, there's only one left to go...


Monday, July 1, 2019

LOOKS (Moot Infinity Stone #4)

We're halfway through the Moot Court Universe (MCU). Three stones down - LAW, LOGIC and LANGUAGE. The next three will complete the Gauntlet...

People tend to judge a book by its cover. That's human nature - an inexorable fact of life. It's true for music, as well as moot.

Until the day when some sort of screening or revolving chairs (like the blind auditions in the 'Voice') is used, there will always be a visual aspect to mooting. Technically, you're only to be judged based on your oral submission. But it's almost impossible for humans to separate the sound of a voice from the face that's uttering it.

Some judges may even argue that body language forms an integral part of advocacy, hence appearance matters. Making eye contact. Posture. Use of appropriate (but not excessive) hand gestures for emphasis.

Some scoresheets in the MCU even include 'demeanour'. This one's a grey area. What does it mean exactly? Is smiling okay or not okay?

Some experienced mooters even wonder cynically whether their immutable traits are being consciously or unconsciously taken into account - and justifiably so. Traits like gender, race and nationality are visual signals that are hard to ignore, try as we might. Profiling is pervasive.

Fair or not, like it or not, mooting is about looking good.


Good looks = standalone movie

* * *

LOOKS is not about natural beauty. Sure, mooters who physically look good have an advantage, whilst having a resting-bitch face may be a slight turn-off.

But ultimately, looking good in the MCU simply means looking the part of a mooter.

So how should a mooter look like?

Mooters should look - and behave - like a lawyer. Simple as that. Your body language is a visual aid to accentuate your voice.

Aren't there judges who are biased towards certain looks?

Of course there are. But hopefully, they are the minority. And in any event, it's beyond your control. You're not a mutant who can change your skin. You can't be someone you're not. You can't stop people from having superficial notions of you.

So just focus and work on the aspects of your looks that you can control...

* * *

Rule #1: Look professional

Start with your attire.

Make sure your clothes are well-ironed and not rumpled. Right size, fits your body snugly. Button up, don't show too much flesh. Coloured suits and ties are fine, but not too flashy. The right dose of make-up for ladies.

And then there's your hair. The gentleman should invest in a good hair gel and comb. For ladies, it can be a bit complicated - short or long, tie like a bun or let loose freely?

Glasses can be a nice cool geeky touch.

Fashion is not exactly my area of expertise. Still, I know enough to know that having a good fashion sense matters, from the eyes of the beholder.

Mooting is not a beauty contest. Still, the judges will be checking you out (not in a creepy way).

"He looks like he just woke up."

"Her skirt is really, really short."

"Do they even know what's court attire?"

Seems trivial, but such minute details say a lot about the professionalism of a mooter. If they, the judges, can suit up well, why can't you, as a mooter? It's about respect. It's about the weight of the occasion.


'A' is for Advocacy, not Ass

* * *

Rule #2: Look prepared

What's that on your table?

Stacks of unbound papers scattered all over. A book or two, stacked up haphazardly like a Jenga tower, teetering precariously.

What do you have with you when you're submitting?

Pieces of handwritten notes. Moot problem, moot problem... oh crap, left on the table!

A messy work-space reflects a messy mind. Frantically flipping through back and forth your notes when posed a question by the judge is not a good sign..

Be organised. Get your stuff in order. Maybe even take a leaf from Marie Kondo's art of decluttering.

It's a matter of preference, of course. Files, sticky notes, tabs, or even fist-size cue-cards. Whatever floats your boat, just make sure you don't load too much till it sinks at the slightest pressure.

Ultimately, judges are impressed when you look in full control of proceedings - not just in the weight and way of your submission, but also of everything else in sight. It's about showing you've done your homework. It's about showing you know your s**t inside out.

* * *

Rule #3: Look poised

Keep calm and exude confidence.

Feeling nervous? Momentarily blanking out? Cornered by the judges?

Even so, you need to maintain your composure. Put on a brave face. Stay strong.

The judges are there to test you. Pull you apart. Break you down.

And so you have to withstand the heat. Courage under fire. Whatever happens, stand your ground.

For if you falter, it's a sign of weakness. That you're uncertain. That you're not even convinced of your own arguments.

But don't go overboard. Don't fight back fire with fire. Don't argue with the judge. Don't be a poser.

Professionalism, preparation and poise all go hand-in-hand. It's the unprofessional and unprepared mooters who usually lose their cool. For when you're professional, even the harshest of jibes from the judges won't rattle you. And when you're prepared, no curve-ball can ever catch you off guard.

When judges talk about 'confidence', what they mean is sounding competent and credible. It's about being comfortable with your own skin. It's about maturity.


Poise or posing?

* * *

In the MCU, you need to sound good, and also look good.

Humans are visual creatures. We succumb to superficial stereotyping. We judge a book by its cover.

But fret not. You don't need to be a model to be a mooter. Looking good in the MCU is not an immutable trait, but a skill that can be learnt.

Ultimately, LOOKS is the way you carry yourself. The way you move. The way you react under stressful conditions.

Hence, any mooter can look good. All it takes is the right attitude. How good your body looks depends on how well your mind thinks. In the MCU, cliche as it sounds, beauty truly comes from within.

And that wraps up the fourth Moot Infinity Stone. Two more to go...