ALSA International Moot, 2017: An interview with the Runners-up

The team comprising Srijan Jha, Harsh Singh, Priyanka Rai, and Shubhangi Agarwal of RMLNLU have emerged as the Runners-up at the Asian Law Student’s Association International Moot Court Competition, 2017. While Srijan Jha is a fourth-year student, Harsh Singh, Priyanka Rai, and Shubhangi Agarwal are third-year students. The team members, in an extensive discussion with SCC Online-Blog, shared the techniques and strategies that they had employed while competing in this moot court competition. We hope the interview will help our readers with their own mooting journeys. The interview was conducted by Ankit Yadav, Student Ambassador, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University.

Q.1 It’s a fairly new moot. This was the third edition, right? Can you tell our readers a bit about the moot?
Yes, this was the third edition of the ALSA International Moot Court Competition.

Let’s talk about the idea of the moot. Unrestrictive on the subject matter, this moot court competition focused on the overall arbitrability of the matter. The Organizing Committee is robust and dynamic and then, it’s really difficult to ignore the Asian tropical venues that the organizers choose for the moot. The competition, till now has not seen itself being attached to any specific scheme of law, and the same is the reason for the excitement that gets attached to the moot.

Q.2 Why did you decide to do this moot? Was it the subject matter? Or you guys had planned to visit Malaysia someday?
This moot was not something we planned to do. As a matter of fact, the first time we came to know about it was on the day the moot problem for the 3rd edition was released. Initially, there were only two people struggling to form a team. Thereafter, we found the other two and took them on board. We chose this moot primarily because of the subject matter which is investment arbitration. We did some preliminary research on the subject and found it really interesting. Although we will not deny the fact that Malaysia was a big incentive. The team is closely knit and we definitely liked the idea to travel abroad with each other if only we could break through the memorial rounds (which eventually, we did).

Q.3 Since the entry to international rounds was done through memorial knockout, written submissions play a major role, right? How long did it take you to draft them? Any tips for our readers as to how they can improve their drafting skills?
Yes, the written submissions play a very important role. The memo, as we call it in our college, was supposed to be only 7000 words including the footnotes, was a challenge considering the fact that the very documented principles of Investment jurisdiction and clauses such as most favoured nation and expropriation existed. To compile them in 7000 words and have our arguments placed with them was one thing we learnt from the competition.

It took us 18 days to completely draft and edit the entire scheme of things and memo. These 18 days are not inclusive of the research that went behind but were only spent to write a presentable piece for the rounds and memo-knockouts. The clarity of the memo was one of the main considerations for us, as we knew it for a fact that unless it’s clear it had meek chances. So, when we actually took 7-8 days to keep drafting and limiting ourselves to the word limit, we had the idea that the tougher work of making it a good and lucid read was still there. That took a lot of brainstorming and saw us change long and well-crafted sentences into short and impactful ones, where every preceding sentence was a premise to the one following.

What I learnt from the memo drafting and I would like to share? Well, firstly it is to never compromise on your arguments. It is true that an argument which is well researched and well drafted will have its own charms, but if the same is so staple that everyone will be having it for the reason of its generality, probably that’s the time to think out of the box and create a logical argument, and give the same importance in your memo. Nothing and I mean nothing that the team finds as a validly applying argument to the moot proposition shall be left from the memo. Secondly, count your footnotes. Footnotes end up taking a lot of words, especially when one cites a web source, book or an article. There are acceptable ways of reducing the words in citations. For example “Azurix Corporation v Argentine Republic, ICSID Case No. ARB/01/12, Decision on Application for Annulment” could be abbreviated to “Azurix” and thereby save 10-12 words in each footnote.

Lastly, it needs to be drafted as a good read. Shot, precise and simple. The people reading and marking these memos have a lot of experience in the field and already are aware of all the directions the participants can wander. There is no point in attempting to impress them with flowery words and grammatical prowess when the arguments are exactly what everyone else is also presenting. What wins in these conditions are arguments and clarity, and those shall not be compromised with; just like the research can never be compromised with.

Q.4 How were the oral rounds? Any specific round that you would remember for a long time?
It was the first time that we had gone for an Arbitration moot to Malaysia. The oral rounds were slightly different from what we had done before. Unlike the National Moots, where we are told to be assertive, here we had to be as polite as possible. Instead of grilling the participants, the judges asked them to prove logically inconsistent points. It was a highly enriching experience to begin with.

Since the cumulative scoring procedure was followed in the competition, we went up against Singapore in the first Preliminary Round as well as the Semi-Finals. We were rather tensed for the preliminary round. We did not perform as well as we had planned. It was clear from the Judges’ feedback that we had lost that round. The opposite team gave us a condescending smile before they left. We were not hoping to qualify to the semi-final round. However, the results surprised us. It turned out that our Second prelim had gone really well. In the Semi-Finals next day, we were up against the very same team from Round 1 and with the same sides as in the prelims. We sat down at night and planned our arguments, made new ones and searched for loopholes in their arguments after going through their memorials. At last, we came up with an argument which was stronger than before and I memorized it in the bus while going to the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration, where the Semi-Finals were supposed to be held. They carried out their arguments just as they had in the previous round but we were different. To put it simply, we were better. When the judges gave their feedback in our favor it felt like victory then and there. That feeling was better than qualifying for the Finals. In that moment, it was the triumph of good over evil.

That round is firmly etched in my memory. We have often heard and read of hard work. And that day, when that round flowed smoothly in front of us, we saw diligence defeat condensation and sincerity win against nervousness. In its little way, it taught us a life lesson that no matter how strong your opponent is, preparation and determination does not let anyone down.

Q.5 Priyanka was also awarded the best oralist award. Any tips for our readers that’d help them in delivering an excellent moot speech?
Start with a summary of your arguments and structure your speech. Moreover, be well prepared with the facts in your favour and the facts against you and listen carefully to the questions and try to address them as and when they are asked and only then continue with your speech. Also, give examples and analogies whenever required. Do not ignore the time limit and give a lot of mocks to ensure that you are able to complete your speech within the prescribed time limit.

Q.6 How well was the moot organized? Will you recommend aspiring mooters to go for it?
It was Asian Law Students’ Association (ALSA) that organized the moot. The organization was commendable. The Organizing Committee (OC) comprised students from Malaysia and Singapore. The entire event was conducted in a very punctual manner. They planned a small Welcome Dinner for all the participants a night before the preliminary rounds, followed by a small introductory session of the OC to make it easier for the participants to approach them whenever they needed anything. There was a cumulative scoring system for breaking-in to the next round. We had 2 Preliminary Rounds followed by 2 Semi-Final Rounds and then the Final Round. We were given accommodation in a five-star hotel and were also provided with good transportation facility. They had called quality judges who asked logical questions and had no intention of grilling the teams unnecessarily. They also gave a detailed feedback after the end of each round. The judges were extremely friendly and they also accompanied us to a party after the competition was over. From the location to the organization, the moot was very well organized. We got a chance to make friends from different countries and gain so much experience. The moot is an easy win with a fair amount of hard work. The moot is totally recommended.

Q.7 Any one-liner advice or drop-the-mic kinda note for our readers?
A one-liner shall be difficult. But if we were to summarize our learning-

“If there are 100 sources saying the same thing, you need to cite only 1, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need read the rest 99.”

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