Monday, March 11, 2019

The Marvelous Wonder Women of Malaysian Moots

Girl power is rising in the Malaysian mooting circuit.

Yet another reason to cheer for International Women's Day.

The facts and figures don't lie. In the last three major mooting competitions in Malaysia, the center-stage of the Finals was dominated by ladies:

LAWASIA 2018: 3/4 Oralists in Finals

IHL 2018: 4/4 Oralists in Finals

Jessup 2019: 4/4 Oralists in Finals

In short, the female representation in Malaysian moot finals in the last year is 91.67%. On top of that, ladies swept all the Best Oralist Awards in those competitions.


Step aside, lads.

* * *

Female domination in mooting is not a recent phenomenon. Even if we look back further into the last 3-5 years, most of the top teams and oralists consisted of ladies.

There are several plausible reasons behind this trend.

Girls outnumber guys in law school.

Girls are more academic and diligent, hence more passionate in mooting.

Girls are more likely to charm the hearts of moot judges, who are predominantly male.

To a certain extent, there's a grain of truth in them.

Guys tend to favour hard sciences and accountancy.

Guys tend to play sports, chase leadership positions in societies, partake in more fast-paced academic pursuits (like debates), and bum around in college.

Guys tend to go 'easy' on female mooters, consciously or subconsciously, hence more generous in grading them.

Nevertheless, such factors shouldn't detract away from the achievements of female mooters. Look beyond mooting and college, and we can similarly trace a trend of female empowerment in society at large.

* * *

It's no secret that female legal associates outnumber their male counterparts by far. However, it's also no secret that men still make up the majority of partners in law firms.

Hence, whilst female mooters kicking ass is a promising sign, it remains to be seen whether their winning streak is sustainable and can truly break the system of patriarchy in the real world in the long run.

Some of the compliments that I've heard national moot judges showering on female mooters strike a chord...

"It's so nice to see four girls mooting for a change!"

"I like your smile!"

"You are so fearless and assertive, young lady!"

Such comments make me feel uneasy. They make me wonder whether the judges would be saying the same if the mooters were male instead. They make me worried that the victories of female mooters may not be entirely based on objective merit.

(Interestingly enough, I've only heard such comments in Malaysia, almost never from judges in International Rounds.)

This relates back to the third reason I alluded earlier. I understand it's driven by human emotion that is hard to shake, but I really do hope the effect is minimal.

I don't feel that it's fair for mooters to be judged by different standards based on gender, race, or traits beyond individual control. Neither is it fair that female mooters get extra marks for being 'assertive' and 'confident', and not male mooters because it's natural and expected of them.

Ultimately, my concern is whether letting female mooters to win the battle will only make them lose the war - by lulling them into complacency, overestimation of their own ability, and false sense of security.

Mean Girlz kicking @55 since 2000.

* * *

It's wonderful that women are kicking ass in the Malaysian mooting scene.

It's wonderful that women are given a platform to shine brightly.

And it will be even more wonderful if women continue to rise through the ranks of legal practice.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Victory At Last (Jessup 2019)

All journeys start from somewhere.

Our victory started from failure. Our happiness started from suffering.

My journey to Jessup started in late September 2016. Since then, all I ever encountered was tragedy and misery every step of the way.

Until now.

2019: National Champion

* * *

I still remembered Jessup 2017 as if it happened yesterday.

Our journey was off a rocky start. Not many students signed up for the auditions. Even after the team was formed, doubts remain on our capabilities, inside and outside - with good reason.

University of Malaya (UM) won the Malaysian National Rounds for 3 consecutive times from 2014 to 2016. There were big shoes to fill. The pressure to extend our winning streak scared many seasoned seniors away. As such, the mooters were all virgin Jessupers. And I was coaching Jessup for the very first time.

True enough, we tripped over rocky patches all along the way, at times threatening to derail the entire mission. Emotional breakdowns, confidence loss, trust issues - just when we thought we had turned a corner, a new trap would spring up. Still, we kept it together, and stayed the course.

At the competition, we smashed past our strongest rivals. We won all 4 matches in the Preliminary Rounds. We marched into the Finals, brimming with confidence. And in the Finals, we produced yet another masterful performance. Sure, we made some slips here and there, but those of our opponents were far more glaring.

Then, came the announcement of the results. The conclusion seemed inevitable. But to our horror and disbelief, the words of the President stunned the audience for a good few seconds: "The case goes to the Respondent."

We were the Applicant.

2018: National Runners-Up

* * *

Jessup 2018 was a chance of redemption. To right the wrongs of the previous year. To reclaim our rightful place on the throne.

We had a brand new team, with one returning member from 2017. The team was more evenly balanced, with all five members vying for an oralist spot.

Also, I was older and wiser. I knew now, with deeper clarity, of the challenges that lay ahead of us, and what needed to be done to overcome them.

Preparation went rather smoothly. No drama, no distractions. All was calm.

More teams joined the fray, raising the competitive level. We were well aware of the strengths of our formidable opponents. We knew the fight would be long and hard.

And our worst fears were realised. Right from the start of the Preliminary Rounds, we got battered and bruised. We lost our very first match, by a whisker of 1 point. More worryingly, we lost crucial matches to our close rivals. Confidence shaken, we staggered into the Semi-Final.

We lost - and deservedly so, to the eventual deserving champion.

Two Jessups, two losses - things not looking so great for my coaching credentials...

* * *

Two years is a long time. Two years gave me a lot of time to reflect on my failures.

Why did we fail? What went wrong? Who messed up?

And slowly, after long periods of soul-searching, the truth reared its ugly head. 

Maybe we didn't deserve to win. And maybe we didn't deserve to win because of me. I wasn't good enough of a coach. I wasn't doing enough of the right things. I wasn't cut out for Jessup.

Till today, I'm still haunted by the ghosts of those painful defeats.

I wasn't brave enough to take control, make tough decisions, and above all, trust my instincts.

And yet, I kept faith that we were on the right track. The National Rounds is just the battle. The International Rounds is the real war. Unlike some other teams, being the National Champion of Jessup isn't good enough. We have our eyes fixed on the bigger prize.

We want to win the war.

Yes, winning the battle is the mandatory first step, but there's no point winning a battle only to get massacred later in the war.

The tricky part about moot competitions with qualifying rounds is that different stages pose different challenges requiring different preparation.

The tricky part is building a team that can both win the battle and the war.

2018: Semi-Finalist

* * *

So what changed this year?

We were flexible in adjusting our methods, and our mindset.

We were not afraid of overturning long-held conventions and reinvent a better wheel.

We were humble enough to acknowledge the superior traits of our opponents and adopt them as our own.

We were able to shut out noise from busybodies, doubters and haters.

We were fully focused on our mission - and our mission was to win.

Ultimately, the end result says it all.

The biggest change this year is that UM is the Malaysian Champion of Jessup 2019.

Best of all, we won in style, and in dominating fashion. We won against all our 4 opponents in the Preliminary Rounds by unanimous vote, and clinched 36 out of 36 Round Points. And in the finals, we triumphed unanimously as well.


* * *

This victory was 3 years in the making.

This victory was the harvest of seeds planted by our fallen comrades.

This victory was theirs to savour as well.

Of course, it's easy for me to say all that because my journey continued all these years, whilst the journey of the mooters entrusted under my care in 2017 and 2018 were cruelly cut short. Some of them may still feel bitter, or even betrayed - and who can blame them?

After all, I failed them as a teacher and leader. Victory today does not remove my failings of yesterday.

To claim that such victory offers anything more than scant consolation is to make light of their sacrifices. Nevertheless, I hope that it now comforts them to know that their suffering and sacrifices have not gone to waste.

Hence, this victory is dedicated to the UM Jessup Team of 2017 and 2018: Alyson, Amanda, Chun Yuan, Hanan, Joseph, Michelle, Saresh, Sheng Wei, Tasha.

UM Boleh! Malaysia Boleh!

* * *

Our journey hasn't ended yet. Instead, the war has only just begun. The International Rounds at Washington DC await in a month's time.

It took longer than expected to get back here again. But while we've been away, we've been busy watching, learning, and rebuilding from the shadows. Calculating every move, from opening to end-game. Envisioning the myriad of future possibilities. In short, plotting for world domination.

And now that we're back, we're ready for the end-game. We moot to win. We've come to kick names and take ass... I beg your indulgence, let's try that again...

Hello, world! We are Team UM from Malaysia. And we've come to kick ass and take names!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Man Is Order, Woman Is Chaos

According to Dr. Jordan Peterson, there's a Yin-and-Yang dualism ingrained in human society: man is order, woman is chaos.

On the other hand, Marie Kondo is wowing the world with her deft skills in keeping everything in the house from clothing to utensils neatly packed, and her deep philosophy in decluttering by asking oneself "Does this spark joy?".

Who is in the right - the controversial psychologist, or the lifestyle guru?

As always, all great mysteries of the universe comes down to the classic answer: "It depends."

Let's run through some key areas, shall we?

* * *

1. Shopping

Man and woman enter into a mall.

Man directly heads to the store and purchases the item he's looking for within 10 minutes.

Woman wanders into all over the mall for the next 3 hours with hands full of stuff she didn't even know she needed until she saw them on sale.

Man: Order, Woman: Chaos

So many clothes, so little time

2. Food

Man and woman enter into a restaurant.

Man: "I'll have the set lunch, please."

Woman: "I'll have the set as well, but can I switch the main to salmon and replace fries with mashed... Oh, wait, I'm not that hungry, maybe I'll just have salad... Can I have your dessert menu? Oh wow, the tiramisu looks absolutely to-die-for..."

Man: Order, Woman: Chaos

3. Housekeeping

Okay, no contest on this one.

Girls tend to take more time and pride in keeping their home as homely as possible. It's a motherly instinct. They all can relate to Marie Kondo.

A typical guy's room look as if there's a mini tornado permanently spinning inside. (Occasionally though, the tornado does strike the girl's rooms too, especially hours before a fancy party or dinner.)

Man: Chaos, Woman: Order

4. Games

Man: "So, let's have a refresher on the rules of 'Settlers of Catan'..."

Woman: "C'mon, we just played last week. Stop mansplaining! Let's play!"

Man: "Okay, fine, everyone pick a colour..."

Woman: "Can I have yellow instead? What are its special powers again? Do I start with extra wheat?"

Man: "No, you do not! The colours are just to differentiate our pieces. Now, everyone roll the dice, player with the highest number starts first..."

Woman: "Oh, I got a 7! That's the robber! I want to steal your card!"

Man: "No, the game hasn't started yet!"

Man: Order, Woman: Chaos

For children above the age of 6 and women above the attention span of 10 seconds

5. Love

Man: "I love you, Marie."

Woman: "Oh, my heart sings with joy! But my heart is also torn in two. You shower me with kindness, whilst he splashes me with lavish gifts. Who is more sincere? Who is more loving? I don't know, Joe. I JUST DON'T KNOW!"

Man: "I love you, Marie. Indubitably."

Woman: "But do you? Will you sail the seven seas for me? Will you search for the heart of the star for me?"

Man: "Er... is that a rhetorical question?"

Woman: "No, that's what love means to me. So do you love me, Joe? Truly, madly, deeply? Forever and ever? Even if the heavens fall and hell freezes? Over the love of your mother and everyone else you ever love? To sacrifice everything you cherish to keep our love alive?"

Man: "Of course I love you, dear. But the part about giving up my family, well, I'm not sure if we need to go that far..."

Woman: "But I love you, Joe! I love you so much! I love you to the deepest of my heart!"

Man: "But you just said that you're torn between him and I..."

Woman: "Doesn't matter what I say, it's what I feel deep inside that matters!"

Man: Order, Woman: Chaos

* * *


Men are more orderly than women in some things, but not everything.

But Order doesn't necessarily means 'good', nor does Chaos means 'bad'. Just like Yin and Yang, both are just opposite sides of the binary state of nature. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

It's also down to personal preference. Some like their romance to be original, some like it to be hot and spicy.

Likewise, I have a mix of both. Take this blog. There's Order in the timing of my articles (every 1st, 11th and 21st of the month), but Chaos in its content (law, love, life, etc.).

For now, I think there's more Chaos than Order in me. Maybe it's because I'm still young, exploring, and haven't quite settled down. As Dr. Peterson said, it is only through the bubbling cauldron of Chaos that a new magical Order can be formed.

And maybe, just maybe, since I'm a man of Chaos, what I need now more than ever is a woman of Order...

"Greetings, I'm Sir Chaos, will thee wish to be my Lady Order?"