Sunday, September 1, 2019

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

Last year, Team University of Malaya (UM) achieved the unthinkable, if not impossible. After an absence of 13 years from the LAWASIA Moot, we stormed back with immediate impact.

At the National Rounds, our two teams swept all the prizes - Champion, Runners-Up and Best Mooter.

At the International Rounds, our champion team defeated National University of Singapore in the Final.

We didn't just ruffle a few feathers. Our Cinderella comeback felt more like an elephant gate-crashing a private party, leaving a mess of broken glass and hearts behind.

A sequel of last year's heroics was always going to be tough act to follow. Proving our victory wasn't a fluke weighed heavily on the shoulders of our new teams.

Nevertheless, after some intense dueling last weekend...

Team UM is the LAWASIA Champion of the Malaysian National Rounds once more!

Whoops, we did it again!

* * *

Still, we fell short of a flawless victory, this time around.

No 1-2 finish, no clean sweep, no perfect score (last year, our champion team won all 7 rounds and all the votes of 3 judges in every round!).

We sent 4 teams this year, 1 more than last year.

We knew the inside outs of the competition this year, whilst we were traversing through a dark forest with unseen undergrowth last year (not an easy feat for an elephant!)

We had more experienced hands on the deck this year, whilst we only had a handful of stalwarts last year.

In the end, we did not quite hit the dizzying peaks of 2018. Still, our overall performance still soared high above all our other rivals:
  • Our champion team went undefeated throughout the competition (winning all 7 matches in the Preliminary Rounds, Advanced Rounds and Final)
  • Our champion team scored the highest overall raw score for the Preliminary Rounds and Advanced Rounds combined (out of the Top 12 teams)
  • Our university had the most teams qualifying for the Advanced Rounds (3 teams - ranked 3rd, 5th and 8th after the Preliminary Rounds)
  • We won the Best Mooter Award (Miss Esther Hong)

All in all, still a comprehensive victory.

* * *

So why did we struggle in 2019?

Simply put, the level of difficulty had increased. A few factors made our trek to the top trickier.

First, the moot problem was a 53-page tome made out of fictional documents (Vis arbitration style) covering novel complex issues on substance (sale by auction) and jurisdiction (emergency arbitrator). Last year, mooters only had to contend with a standard fact-sheet-based moot problem of 13 pages.

The breadth and depth of research was more expansive. Mixing the right balance of facts into our submissions proved to be a real challenge, especially since different judges had different level of familiarity with the voluminous record.

Second, there was a more level playing field between teams. This year, the number of teams decreased from 30 to 24. But quantity isn't necessarily equivalent to quality. Paradoxically, the smaller field meant that the top teams faced each other more frequently. True enough, the 'bottleneck' effect was reflected by the results.

In the Advanced Rounds, only 2 out of 12 teams won all 2 matches (last year, the top 6 teams did so). Also, since LAWASIA adopts a league format instead of a knockout format for the Advanced Rounds, it's possible for teams to win all their matches but still not qualify to the Final - but this year, only our champion team sailed unscathed in all 6 matches of the Preliminary and Advanced Rounds (last year, 4 teams did so). And quite tragically this year, the top 2 teams of the Preliminary Rounds lost steam and failed to advance to the Final (last year, both our champion and runners-up team firmly clinched top 2 from start to finish).

Third, the mooting skills of our opponents were arguably more formidable. Many of the strong teams fielded seasoned mooters, including 'repeaters' from last year (fun fact: the 'Best Mooter' of the recent Jessup National Rounds even joined the fray). In contrast, there were a few first-time novice mooters in our ranks (including even our champion team), and no one from last year returned as a 'repeater'.

As a result, the top teams traded blows quite evenly. Our own teams suffered losses along the way. Although our champion team went on an unbeaten run, some of their victories were won by razor-thin margins (the Final was a 2-1 split decision). And given our dominance in 2018, it's no surprise if large target marks were painted all over our backs this year...

Team UM 2 Team ATC 1

* * *

From round to round, even till the very end, victory was not assured.

Every match, we had to dig deep, summon our reserves, and pray for Lady Luck's blessings.

There was never a moment in the competition where we were thinking "Oh yes, we got this!". We were constantly on the edge of our seats. Doubts assailed us at every corner.

And if we had lost this year, there would be no bitter feelings. There were many other formidable teams worthy of the crown. The Final was truly a nail-biting affair - after all, we were up against Advanced Tertiary College, former multiple National and International champion of LAWASIA.

Yes, Team UM had successfully defended the LAWASIA championship - but only just!

Next up is the International Rounds, Hong Kong - to defend our crown against the rest of Asia.

There's little time for rest and celebration.

The final chapter still awaits.

We're in the endgame now...

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