Monday, November 11, 2019

We Are The Champions Of Asia... Again (LAWASIA 2019)

Last year, University of Malaya (UM) emerged as the LAWASIA Champions for both the Malaysian National Rounds and International Rounds - upon our return to the competition after a decade-long hiatus.

Was our victory a fluke? Beginner's luck? A feat achieved by a once-in-a-blue-moon golden generation of mooters?

Not at all. Last August, with a brand new team, we successfully defended our title in the Malaysian National Rounds.. Just last week, we traveled to Hong Kong as the reigning International champion, slugging out against law schools from Singapore, India, China, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and Malaysia for 4 grueling days.

On the last day, two teams were left standing: Team UM and the National University of Singapore (NUS). A repeat of last year's final. And once again, we prevailed over our more illustrious neighbours with a close but unanimous 3-0 vote...

Yes, we're the LAWASIA Champions of Malaysia and Asia - for two years in a row and counting!

Malaysia, Truly Asia

* * *

This year, our path to victory was strewn with different, unexpected challenges.

There were only 9 teams in the International Rounds, a stark decline from 14 teams last year. Singapore Management University even withdrew last-minutely due to a travel advisory policy. The political unrest in Hong Kong had cast a spectre over the competition.

Lesser teams doesn't necessarily make the competition easier. Statistically, a smaller pool increases the likelihood of the stronger teams facing off each other in the early stages.

True enough, the luck of the draw conspired to pit the eventual Top 3 teams - UM, NUS, Advanced Tertiary College (ATC) - against each other in the Preliminary Rounds. In fact, for our very first match, we were already crossing swords with NUS.

The three-corner fight was truly cut-throat. Our win-loss-tie record ended up to a rock-scissor-paper deadlock: UM beat NUS (3-0-0), NUS beat ATC (1-0-1), ATC beat UM (1-0-0).

(Technically, Team UM is evenly tied with ATC as we defeated them in the Malaysian Final).

ATC strikes back!

* * *

There was a noticeable drop of moot arbitrators, too.

A few matches in the Preliminary Rounds only had a panel of 2 arbitrators. Our Final against NUS had 3 arbitrators, instead of a 5-member panel like last year.

The impact is not just in quantity, but also quality. Some arbitrators seemed like last-minute replacements - their names were not included in the booklet, and more importantly, their questions betrayed some lack of familiarity with the moot record. At the other end of the spectrum, some moot arbitrators knew the record inside and out, and kept pushing the mooters to their limits.

(Now, just to be clear, this isn't intended to a critical rant against the organisers and arbitrators. I'm fairly sure that the situation in HK must've put off some lawyers from attending the LAWASIA conference, and consequently, depleted the pool of judges. Much thanks to those who stepped up!)

The conundrum is this: There could be a vast gap of expectations between different arbitrators on the same panel. Some preferred to hear the basic 'bread-and-butter' principles (e.g. construction of arbitration agreement, procedural rules, etc.), some dove deep into the peripheral but practical parts (e.g. order of sale, third party rights, etc.). Some preferred a simplistic submission, some required the mooters to deal with the real issues like real lawyers do.

It's difficult for mooters to find a delicate balance to please both types. After all, 20 minutes of submission is not a long time. Sometimes, winning the heart of one arbitrator would make you lose another.

Overall, it was truly a great learning experience to moot before senior lawyers and judges. Their questions left us doubting the very essence of our submissions (in a good way!), their feedback were enlightening. Without them, we would not have been able to reflect on our mistakes, and improve our performance in future rounds.

After a stunning loss in the Semi-Final Round that came very close to eliminating Team UM, we were certainly not in a great physical shape and mental state entering the Finals. Fortunately, one particular moot arbitrator (let's just call him 'Yoda') gave us perhaps the best advice ever - to not over-think and over-prepare, and instead to "be in the moment".

And in the Final, we stayed focused, calmed our nerves, and raised our game. Thanks, Yoda!

Dress rehearsal for the Final: UM v NUS (featuring 3 eminent arbitrators including 'Yoda')

* * *

Last but not least, special thanks to the LAWASIA Committee - Raphael Tay, Lai Mun Onn, Chye Yoke Wah, and the rest of their small but efficient crew.

Much thanks as well to the Hong Kong Shue Yan University. You kept the mooters well-fed with lunch, and a steady supply of coffee and cookies. The student volunteers were professional and committed. Thanks for hosting us, thanks for the superb 5-star hospitality!

And to the other competitors - well done! We saw incredible spirit from all teams. You made us doubt ourselves at every corner. On any other day - who knows - the outcome may have turned out differently, and some other team would have been jumping for joy instead of Team UM.

LAWASIA has been nothing short of a spectacular adventure this year - exhilarating, enlightening, and exhausting. Our best moment is not coming onto stage to collect our Championship trophy, but every step and misstep of the way that brought us from KL to HK.

For the second year, Team UM reigns supreme as the Champions of LAWASIA. Congratulations, Esther, Nevyn and Zafirah! And may be the Force continue to be with us in 2020...

Friday, November 1, 2019

Happy Birthday And Thanks For Everything, Daddy

Fathers usually don't get as much loving as mothers.

Outwardly, that is. Mother's Day generates more sentimental feels and commercial hype. And Daddy's too busy (and too manly) to care about arbitrary numbers on the calendar anyway.

But make no mistake - we all owe our successes in life to our parents to a large extent, whether we realise it or not. Some contributions are obvious (e.g. paying for our college and laptops), some are more subtle (e.g. giving up on a high-paying job to spend more time at home).

The point is, Mom and Dad do much more than we actually know about. After all, how many of us recall our early days screaming in the middle of the night and wetting our bed?

Mom does the cooking, cleaning, and chores. She makes her presence felt throughout the home. Under the roof, she's the boss (even Dad can't touch her precious kitchen silverware).

Dad... um, well, Dad's always there, isn't he? Somewhere, drifting in the periphery. Outside for most times. Away fighting battles, making a living. And to unleash the ultimate punishment if you mistakenly threw Mom's silver spoons down the bin for the umpteenth time...

World's Greatest Dad

* * *

Yesterday was my Dad's birthday. He turns 73 this year.

What's so special about this year? Nothing, really. Except the sudden realisation how I've seldom ever sing praises to Mom and Dad in my writings here since 2013, whilst I've constantly waxed lyrical on my students and make the occasional passing mention to my friends (e.g. weddings - and how much I dislike them).

Of course, it's largely deliberate. I'm a fairly private person (I deleted Instagram years ago). And family affairs is especially, well, private.

Most times, I seem rather cynical about family, like my constant rants against Chinese New Year (like this year and last year). I far from being a model son - even in my family, that award definitely goes to my brother, no contest.

But that doesn't mean I've lost all the ohana spirit.

In one of my earliest posts from 2013, I recalled positively about how my parents had a great positive impact on my education:
"And that's... how I learn just about everything, not just English. I focus on being a good learner, instead of being a good student. 
And that's why my parents make the best teachers. They understood my personality and eccentricities well, and gave me the freedom to explore, learn and grow on my own. For that, I am eternally grateful to them."

* * *

Anyway, back to Dad - it's his birthday, after all (sorry, Mom, take a number).

Thanks for giving me space to explore and find myself.

Thanks for supporting my endeavours, no matter how insane they may be.

Thanks for tolerating my idiosyncrasies.

Thanks for keeping the family together, free of any crisis or drama.

Thanks for not raising your voice.

Thanks for not spoiling me.

Thanks for opening my eyes to the world.

Thanks for breaking my bad habits.

Thanks for being a better father than I will ever be.

Thanks for making me the man I am today.

Luv u 3000 xoxo

Monday, October 21, 2019

Second Makes Us Stronger

Finishing in second place is truly heartbreaking.

To come so close to winning, but only to fall at the final hurdle, is the worst feeling ever for a mooter.

Finishing as runners-up often feels worse than bowing out in the early stages. Emotions and adrenaline tend to build up stronger the deeper you advance into the competition. Also, you'll be forever haunted with the memory of letting victory slip away from your grasp at the very last moment.

But such is the cold hard reality of our highly-competitive world. Sometimes, winning is everything. Sometimes, all of the spoils of war go to the victor. Sometimes, if you're not first, you're as good as LAST!

Then again, all is not lost. After all, second place means you're closer to the top than the bottom. There's no shame in silver. It's only an epic failure if you let the heartbreaking loss get into your head. So long as you don't lose sleep, spirit and sanity, you'll be back in better shape than ever.

Super Juniors

* * *

Recently, the moot teams from University of Malaya (UM) finished as Runners-Up in two competitions: the inaugural KL Bar - Lincoln's Inn Alumni Moot Court Competition and IHL Moot Court Competition.

Just 'minor' competitions in the greater scheme of things. The mooters were mostly juniors, and in their tender years. I wasn't their coach, and trained them sparingly.

I watched the finals. Both were very close affairs. Without labouring too much into the details (and risk sounding like a sore loser), Team UM missed out on victory due to some odd and questionable technical quirks in the rules (another reason, among others, that makes the moot as 'minor').

Nevertheless, a loss is still a loss. In UM, we don't take any loss - big or small - lightly. Processing our loss takes a lot of soul-searching.

Both teams were far from perfect. Mistakes were made, which could have been avoided. Did they perform to the best of their abilities? Of course not! To think so would mean accepting that they were not good enough to win.

At our best, Team UM will always emerge as the best out of the rest. That's where we believe we stand at every competition. To believe otherwise would mean selling ourselves short and setting up for failure even before mooting.

For Team UM, second place is not good enough.

They'll be back

* * *

Of course, that's not to say that our non-victorious mooters are losers. Quite the opposite, in fact. They're just getting warmed up. Losing is but a wake-up call to not be cocky and complacent next time.

What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger.

Time and time again, we have always come back after a bad loss with a string of victories.

Hell hath no greater fury than Team UM scorned.

For the rest of Malaysia - be afraid, be very afraid...

We will strike back with a vengeance. We will be more ruthless. We will show no quarter.

We're not unbeatable, of course.

But if you beat us once, we'll crush you ten times over...