Moot Court Advocacy Series – Season I: ‘Written Advocacy’, Episode I: ‘The Mindset’

Hello everyone! With this post I would like to begin the first of several series dedicated to key aspects of mooting. Successful participation in a moot court requires a variety of skills and actions. You might not even be aware of some of them! In this and the following posts I will focus on written advocacy, showing you how to draft a moot court memorandum that will receive high scores.

Creating a good memorandum is by no means an easy or short process. However, I believe that writing a memo is the part of every competition where you learn the most useful skills that will pay off during your future career. Why? Lawyers just write a lot. A lot depends on how they do it. Whether it is a contract, a memorial, a provision or an e-mail to a client, we have to master the art of conveying unambiguous messages in a persuasive, comprehensive and concise manner. Drafting a moot court memorandum is a perfect way for a ‘baby lawyer’ to start practicing it.

The first step to create a successful moot court memorandum is to fully understand the nature of the task ahead of you.  With these ideas at the back of your mind you will always retain the right approach:

  1. You are writing an equivalent of a real-life written submission

Moot courts are competitions that try to recreate a real-life proceedings. The same goes for written submissions – the fact that you are dealing with a mock case does not mean your ambitions should be low. You written submissions will be usually read and scored by practicing lawyers and judges. They will be impressed if they receive a submission similar (or maybe even better) to the ones they produce or review in their professional life. But, how to get access to them?

The problem you might encounter is that students do not always have access to written submissions from real proceedings. For example, briefs submitted in commercial arbitration are almost never made public due to confidentiality of proceedings. However, there are ways for you to lay your hands on examples of good legal writing. If you work in a law firm, your supervisors should be more than happy to show you some of their old briefs for learning purposes. Sometimes submissions are also made public due special circumstances, like in certain investment arbitration cases or proceedings before the International Court of Justice. Lastly, you can have a look at the winning memoranda from previous editions of most moots – they are usually published (e.g. submissions from VIS moot are available here and FDI here). They should suffice to give you a clear idea of what you should aim for.

  1. You are not writing a future Nobel-prize winning novel

Legal writing is different from regular writing, just as legal language is different from the one we use for normal communication. Forget what you might have learnt while learning how to write an essay, a short story or an academic dissertation. During a moot, you produce a memorandum – an entirely different form of written expression, serving its own particular purposes.

  1. You are writing to persuade

The purpose of a written submission is to persuade the judges or arbitrators that your client is right. By prove it in the dispute by identifying essential facts, arranging them, pointing out applicable law and substantiating your position with correct reasoning. You do it in a written submission and every bit of text should serve the final goal of presenting and reinforcing your client’s claims.

  1. You are writing to engage

It is not true that law and its application are inherently boring or hard to explain – they are, unless counsels make them more compelling. If you are able to turn your memorandum into a captivating piece that requires little effort to follow, you will contribute enormously to its persuasiveness. However, when you find yourself unable to go through three paragraphs that you wrote without losing your focus or taking a nap, then it is a sign something should be considerably improved.

  1. Less is more

The more you express in fewer words the better. Moot court rules tend to limit the maximal number of pages you can submit, so every redundant word is a waste of opportunity to convey your message. But it is not only about the rules. People who will read your memoranda are busy. If they see your brief is superfluous they will not score it high.

I hope that with these basic ideas will help you approach drafting a moot court memorandum correctly. This is just the beginning – stay tuned for further updates on written advocacy!

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