By Karan Talwar
Law students are in some ways, a very lucky lot.
Even at the best national law schools in the country, the curriculum is not terribly demanding when compared with the other under-graduate courses one can opt for.
While I realize that this is quite a subjective opinion, I genuinely think that even after a law student attends his lectures (or at least some of them), researches on and writes project papers, makes presentations and gives vivas, there is still plenty of time left over for him to try his hand at new things.
This is one of the fundamental differences between pursuing law, and opting for labour-intensive courses like Chartered Accountancy, Medicine and probably even Engineering, where the vast extent of the syllabus leaves very little time for much else. Put differently, there’s simply a lot (and I mean a lot) more that you have to read as a CA or MBBS student, just so that you finish the bare-minimum syllabus for the examinations.
It goes without saying that the amount of free time a student has at his disposal varies with the law school he attends, and the rigours of the curriculum. NLS, Bangalore, for instance has a trimester system which is widely regarded as being a challenging one, requiring sustained effort throughout the year.
The rule of thumb, however, still remains the same. If the thrill of experiencing new things excites you, then you’ll love to study law, owing to the flexibility it provides.
There is a whole array of engaging options for you to choose from. Instead of attending yawn-inducing lectures, you can challenge yourself by taking part in Debates and Model United Nations competitions. If you like to write, you can find a legal journal that publishes articles on your favourite area of law, and contribute a write-up to it.
You can even test your writing skills against students from across the country, by taking part in the various legal drafting (NALSAR’s annual Contract Drafting Competition, is one example) and essay competitions that happen the year round.
You could even start your own website for law students, and give TanujKalia a run for his money. The sky is the limit when it comes to what you can do.
To add to this burgeoning list is another activity, one that probably best typifies the law school experience, Mooting. It is the one activity that probably every law student seriously contemplates doing at some point in his stint at law school. This article is about Mooting, and is aimed at students studying for CLAT who’re curious to know more about what the study of law actually entails.
What is Mooting?
Consider the following set of facts. In your locality, a large number of residents come together and set-up a laughter club. The club meets each morning, and the members jog around your locality, laughing loudly as they go along.
The other residents in the society are annoyed at the ruckus, and file a case against the society, demanding that its activities be stopped. On behalf of the Society, it is argued in Court that the individual members have a fundamental right to ‘freedom of association’, under Article 19(6) of the Constitution, and hence the Society cannot be disbanded.
The other residents argue that the freedom of association is not absolute, and restrictions can be imposed on it by the State in the interest of ‘public order’, as stated in Article 19(4) of the Constitution. Hence, the activities of the Society must be stopped in the interest of public order, they say.
The Society responds by saying that the activities that violate ‘public order’ are only those that ‘disrupt public peace and security’, and that the mere act of laughing loudly in the morning cannot be said to disrupt public peace and security.
The debate then centres around the actual meaning of the phrase ‘public order’, and both sides argue about how it should be interpreted, using previously decided cases from various Indian courts to substantiate their arguments.
This, in a nutshell, is what Mooting is all about.
In a Moot Competition, participants are given a set of facts that form the Moot Problem. (See here) Each Moot Problem involves two opposing parties – the Claimant (the party/individual alleging that a wrong has been committed/a law has been violated) and the Respondent (the party/individual denying any wrongdoing on its part) (In our fact situation, the Laughter Club would be the Respondent, and the other residents would together be the Claimants).
Participants are expected to represent both parties in the course of the Competition. They are evaluated in the Competition on two counts – (1) their written submissions and (2) oral arguments before a panel of judges.
The written submission is called a Memorial (informally called a ‘Memo’), and contains the main arguments put forward on behalf of the party the participant is representing. (See this link for a sample of a Moot Memo).
One important point that must be noted here is that there is a clear difference in the weightage assigned to memorials in a Moot Competition, as opposed to the oral arguments.
Although there is no absolute consensus on the point, the commonly followed practice is to have an 80:20 split for every 100 marks, with 80 marks allotted to the oral rounds and 20 marks for the Memorial.
It’s easy to conclude from this that preparing a brilliant Memorial is not as important as having an excellent oral round. Any experienced Mooter will tell you that this is really not the case. The most important point to be noted here is that a team with a poorly researched Memorial has a lower chance of impressing the judges with their arguments.
A well-researched Memorial and a good performance in the oral rounds go hand-in-hand. Further, all Moot Competitions have a separate award for the Best Memorial Award in the Competition, which is worth expending a lot of effort to win.
Are there different types of Moot Court Competitions?
Broadly speaking there are two types, based on the location of the Moot – Moots held in India (National Moots) and Moots held abroad (International Moots). These Moots are further differentiated on the areas of law the problems are based on. There are Moot Competitions on almost every area of law you can think of, ranging from Criminal Law to the Law of Commercial Arbitration.
While it’s unnecessary at this stage to list out all the reputed Moot Competitions in detail, I think it’s useful to learn about the best of the best (in terms of repute, quality of competition, quality of judging etc.), both domestically and abroad.
Some of the best International Moots are:
1. The Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, Vienna, Austria.
2. The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
3. The Oxford International Intellectual Property Law Moot, Oxford, U.K.
4. The Willem C. Vis (East) International Commercial Arbitration Moot, Hong Kong, China.
Some of the best National Law Moots are:
1. The NUJS-Herbert Smith National Corporate Law Moot Court Competition, Kolkata.
2. The NLU-Jodhpur Anti-Trust Moot Court Competition, Rajasthan.
3. Bar Council of India Moot Court Competition (No fixed location)
4. D.M. Harish Memorial Moot Competition, Government Law College, Mumbai.
5. NLS International Arbitration Moot Competition, Bangalore.
What are the roles of members on the Moot team?
A team usually consists of two Speakers and one Researcher. The Researcher’s role is confined to preparing the Memorials, and he is not allowed to speak. There is an emerging trend in National Moots where a Researcher’s Test is organized to decide the award of Best Researcher.
The Speakers on the team have dual roles – they research and draft the Memorial in the preparatory stage leading up to the Moot, and also plead before judges in the Oral rounds.
How valuable are Moots to a student’s CV?
There is no clear answer to this question. In terms of placements with the top corporate law firms, it does seem that it’s safer to have an excellent rank and aggregate, than to have done well in Moot Competitions in India and abroad. That being said, there are several firms that do give a lot of weightage to participation in Moots when deciding on a candidates job application.
The Recruitment Committee at NUJS has specifically been asked several times to forward applications of candidates who have good Moot records. It is a tad obvious to say this, but the best profile a candidate can have is to be good at both, academics and extra-curriculars. It’s obvious, but it’s true.
I hope this article’s been of some help. Cheers, Karan.
Karan Talwar is a 5th year law student at NUJS. He has represented NUJS at both National and International Moots as an Oralist.
He is now retired and enjoying his 5th year.