Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Myths About Mooting

Let me tell you a mooting myth. Once upon a time, 4 law students – each from different years – were invited to a secret moot competition held every 100 years. Legend has it that the champion team will be granted eternal youth and beauty. Others say that the prize is a lifetime subscription of LexisNexis.

After preparing for 6 long months, the team received a secret message to get onto a ship late at night. When they woke up, they found themselves on a deserted island. Too late – it's a TRAP! A ghostly figure appeared and said: “No one shalt leave this island alive until they moot before Lord Thanos!” Every mooter knew about Lord Thanos – a fearsome demon who tortures lawyers when they go to Hell, whose single word can cut down a mooter speechless and drive them insane. The mooters burst into panic and tears...

Then, someone kicked something in the sand – an old Aladdin-like lamp. They rubbed the lamp – POOF! The genie appeared and said: “I will grant each of you a single wish. But seeing that you all are law students, I need to set a rule to avoid abuse – that the wish has to be reasonably foreseeable from your current condition. For example, I can’t make you a princess or billionaire overnight.”

The 4 law students thought long and hard. After 5 minutes, the genie came over to the 2nd year mooter, who looked like passing out at any moment. Without hesitation, the mooter exclaimed: “I wish to get off this island immediately and safely!” The genie nodded: “Very well, your wish is granted.” And the mooter disappeared. Next in turn was the 3rd year mooter, brimming with more confidence: “I wish to return home as a top mooter!” The genie smiled: “Very well, your wish is granted.” The mooter disappeared, with mooting skills magnified. The genie approached the 4th year mooter. Being more forward-thinking, the mooter declared: “I wish to become a partner of a top law firm within 5 years.” The genie frowned for a moment - as if to calculate the infinite alternative possibilities like Dr. Strange - and eventually said: “Very well, your wish is granted.” And the mooter disappeared – with a bright future ahead.

Lastly, the genie turned to the first year mooter – perhaps intentionally out of kindness, to give him more time to think. The mooter had watched his other friends disappeared, leaving behind all their bags and files. “So,” the genie said, "What is your wish?"

The first-year mooter shook his head and sighed: “But I’m just a researcher! Surely I can’t take on Lord Thanos alone! I wish that my three teammates would return to the island.”


"Moot or death?"

* * *

That was the opening ice-breaker to my introductory talk on mooting to first-year law students few weeks ago at University of Malaya. It's an old joke, which a few tweaks of my own.

The moral of the story is simple - mooting is a means to an end, not an end itself.

The tricks you pick up in mooting - rather than the trophies - are what prepares you to face legal practice after graduation. Mooting sharpens your core legal skills (i.e. research, drafting and advocacy), as well as all-round skills (i.e. communication, critical-thinking and character).

Good mooters don't necessarily make good lawyers, and good lawyers weren't necessarily good mooters.

Mooting is merely a lite version of litigation practice. It's not the real and whole thing. For instance, mooting touches on appellate advocacy (issues of law), but not trial advocacy (e.g. drafting of pleadings, examination of witnesses, perusal of bundles of documents). And real lawyers juggle dozens of cases at once, whilst mooters have the luxury of focusing on a single problem with limited issues.

So dear aspiring mooters - don't lose sight of the woods for the trees.

It's fine to lose in mooting competitions, over and over again. The important part is to quickly get back to your feet, learn from your mistakes, and take on the next challenge with renewed vigour.

Mooting is a marathon, not a sprint.

And at the end of my talk, here's how I wrapped up...

* * *

Let me tell you another mooting myth. It’s actually a spin-off to the first legend I told you. So there was a law student flying off to an international moot competition. The plane crash landed in the middle of a desert. No one survived the crash except the mooter. So the mooter wandered aimlessly in the desert, hungry and thirsty.

After a few hours, the mooter stumbled upon an indigenous tribe armed to the teeth with spears. The leader pointed a spear threateningly and asked: “Moot or death?” The mooter thanked his lucky stars. He expected to be challenged to a duel or put through physical torture. Who would’ve known that an uncivilized nomadic tribe revered the art of mooting? So he said: “Moot, please!” And presented his submission with full energy. Impressed, the tribe let him go.

After few more hours, the mooter encountered yet another tribe. The leader gave him the same choice: “Moot or death?” Again, he couldn’t believe his luck: “Moot, please!” Despite his dry throat and cracking voice, the mooter still managed to deliver his submission well. Satisfied, the tribe let him go. The same thing happened again – a third time, a fourth time, and so on.

At the tenth tribe, the mooter crumpled to the ground, exhausted and frustrated. Once again, the leader intoned: “Moot or death?” The mooter snapped: “That’s it! I’m so sick and tired of mooting. Mooting SUCKS! Give me DEATH, please!”

The leader gazed at him solemnly, and said: “Very well. By the grace of our god, Lord Thanos, I hereby sentence you to death – by mooting until you die.”



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