by Somil Kumar and Linesh Lalwani
At the outset, we must admit that it seems very elder statesmen-like (Somil is 25 this November. 25! JESUS!) to write an article which contains advice and experiences regarding a college activity. We (Somil is sure) aren’t sure if we want to be perceived as people who are that wise yet. We are also to a large extent, alienated from what students make of the IMS these days. When we started it was the worst time of the year on campus. Since it was the only co-curricular activity for students, there was a lot of cut-throat competition and that led to a lot of not so pleasant events and conjectures. We have every reason to believe that has diluted to a large degree because of the various avenues that are available now but still as a matter of abundant caution there are few things we probably want to tell you:
- It is not worth spoiling relations with someone (obvious) unless they do something that wants to make you punch them in the face. If that is the course you decide to take, send out a mass mail and invite everyone.
- Mooting isn’t a job oriented exercise; you will not get a particular job because you have done an international moot. That literally never happens. But it is still a great activity that allows you to develop your research skills and knowledge base.
- The foreign trip shouldn’t be the aim of your work. It can be a by-product at best but seriously, the worst thing about mooting on campus is the idea that it is a paid vacation. Please have a little respect for the competition and some dignity. Arshu worked, ok! Like, actually worked, we want to put those conjectures to bed once and for all.
Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, we wanted to give you a few pointers about how to actually go about handling a moot problem. Take these as our two bits of advice, we are just mentioning some practical things which we would have liked to know when we started working on our first moot problem.
- Not having prior knowledge of the relevant laws is not a limitation.
Obviously if you haven’t had the course or mostly even if you have, prior knowledge is never something you can claim. It is absolutely alright if you start with a clean slate and pick up the basics and nuances of the relevant provisions as you go along because it allows you to look at the law conceptually.
- Having said that, do not try to learn the entirety of the applicable law
You can’t. Just. You really can’t. It is like trying to rote the entire Lord of the Rings whilst simultaneously predicting the next plotline of A Song of Ice and Fire. It just won’t happen. Get the basics right. Go from there to the specific part of the law that is applicable.
- Having a precedent that goes completely against one side’s case isn’t a huge handicap
You heard us right. It can actually work as a benefit because at times the case law is problematic (given that we didn’t write the judgment cause we would write perfect ones) and will always allow you to argue otherwise. Most times, it is only seemingly against your side and it is differentiable from the facts in your case. Punya made a mooting career by making this his USP (He is a stellar mooter by the way, in case you were wondering how it worked out for him).
- Read the fact sheet every day (Without fail!)
Your aim by the end of the first week should be to remember detailed contents of each paragraph. This is essential because it allows you to have a holistic view of the facts always and therefore your research can be better used. You will inevitably come to realize that if you go out looking for X, you are equally likely to find Y (X and Y being different arguments). Whether or not you realize the importance of Y depends on how well you know the facts. Linesh and I actually used to quiz each other on facts. I lost. He cheated.
- Do not have an impractical split of issues
This is fairly self explanatory. Use logic. If you don’t have logic, ask someone who does. Sorry for the meanness. Just use your brains, don’t try give too much of the issue writing to your researcher, it can create issues because the speakers won’t know the issue in its entirety. It is best if the researcher supports all the issues and drafts only the unavoidable parts which cannot be drafted by the speakers due to the lack of time.
- Always make a structure before you start typing out an issue
It keeps your writing of the argument within a logical framework and your argument flows from one logical conclusion to the next. This allows you to do justice to the argument and at any point you will know what more is required to complete the argument. This will also ensure that you don’t seem like a headless chicken tapping away on a keyboard to an utterly futile end. Come to think of it, that could make for a funny image but we digress. Make a structure beforehand!
- Read earlier memorials for formatting and the manner of making an argument
This is sometimes the easiest source of information that teams tend to overlook. It is the best resource that you can probably get. It will ensure that you don’t make a few novice mistakes such as having your footnotes in Calibri (Linesh, really?) or beginning every argument with “it is humbly submitted”.
- Never submit a shoddy a looking memorial
Nothing puts a judge off as much as a shoddy looking memorial. The person who is going to be reading your memorial might be reading ten other memorials. That’s not it. He might have a few documents from work and if you are in terrible luck, his partner might have yelled him down to insignificance before an intern. So, you really have to make him want to read your memorial. It simply has to look professional and consistent.
- Don’t work in isolation. Discuss issues with your teammates every day
You can’t just divide issues and let everyone do their own thing. It is a team event for a reason. Trust us. Frequent brainstorming helps. A single person cannot come up with all possible angles of looking at a problem. Discussion also ensures that you don’t end up with an argument that only makes sense in your head.
- There is no substitute for solid research i.e. There is no substitute for hard work i.e Yes, you have to work your ass off
This is fairly self-explanatory. We have never known anyone to have made a decent memorial without having put any effort on it. To reach that one relevant case, you’ll have to go through a lot of irrelevant gobbledygook but that’s simply the way moot research works. Not everyone can have us as teammates (This bit is obviously Somil). This is what Rawls was talking about in his lottery of birth shizz. Arshu will attest to this.
Hope you find the aforementioned advice helpful or at least mildly amusing. We wish you all the very best for the IMS. (Or not ’cause IDGAF! – Somil) Go kill something! (Not your teammate, just clarifying). Kill someone else’s teammate.