Moot Court Advocacy Series – Season I: ‘Written Advocacy’, Episode IV: ‘Structure of Your Memorandum’

Hi! This is the fourth post from the Written Advocacy Series and we are going more and more into details. In this post we will look at your written submission as a whole and figure out how to structure it in its entirety to be clear, neat and, as they say in French – comme il faut 🙂

  1. Follow the moot rules

The most important point when thinking if the memo’s form, layout and structure are the rules of a particular moot court you take part in. To put it simply: do include what the rules require you to include and do not include what the rules forbid you to include. In the former case, apart from the main body of submission with argumentation, you are usually required to provide table of cases and authorities and a front page with information used to identify your team. In the latter case, you might for instance be obliged not to disclose you affiliation to a particular university. If you have any doubts, remember that you can compare your draft memorandum to these submitted in previous editions. Unless the rules changed, they would be a reliable source of good practices.

  1. Consider including the following parts

Irrespective of the rules, most of the written submissions prepared in moot court competitions contain the following parts:

a) Front page

This is the very first page the people scoring you written submission will see. The rules usually provide what it should contain. The most important issue here is whether to reveal your affiliation: in some moot courts it is known for everyone which university you represent, in others you must not inform anyone about it and you are given an alias. Most likely, the front page will mention names of the parties and the institution administering the proceedings, as well as information which party submits it. Apart from that, make sure the front page is impeccable in terms of its layout, pleasant to look at and coherent. ‘Don’t judge a written submission by its cover’ rule does not apply here.

b) Table of contents

A part which is often overlooked, but crucial for navigating though your memorandum. It must provide clear information on which page each part of the written submission ends and begins. Also, it should make a clear distinction between different tiers of argumentation. I strongly discourage doing it manually – last minute mistakes are almost certain in that case. Learn how to generate it automatically and get done when you know no further amendments to the memorandum beyond correcting typos will be made.

c) Statement of facts

This part is usually not obligatory. However, I do recommend including it. Statement of facts should be 1-, maybe 1,5-page-long recapitulation of the key facts from the record aimed at bringing out circumstances of the case that support the position of the party that is making the submission. Do not get me wrong – you are not supposed to lie or manipulate here. In most moot problems you will be able to identify fact patterns and the way of presenting them that will make judges or arbitrators more likely to sympathize with either claimant or respondent.

d) Summary of arguments

Again, although not obligatory, this part can  help you receive high scores. Without using a single unnecessary word, you should present your key arguments regarding all issues. This will help the person scoring your memo understand what the problem is about and pick the most interesting one or the one she or he is most familiar with and able to assess properly. Be concise – depending on competition statement of facts and summary of arguments counted together should not take more than 3 pages.

e) Main argument

A crucial part of your memorandum where you argue in favour of your client’s position. The rules for structuring particular arguments are complex and important enough to dedicate an entirely separate post to them. What matters from the point of view of the entire memorandum is the 3-layer rule described below. Right now just remember that the main part of the memorandum should be between the initial summaries and…

f) Prayer for relief

The final part. A short and sweet statement at the very end of your memorandum which, preferably in a more persuasive, affirmative manner, once again enumerates what you request the judges or arbitrators to do. It might contain hand-written signatures of authors of the memorandum.

g) Table of authorities and cases

Often an obligatory part where you cite sources you used to support your position. Since there are usually no limits on its length, you better make sure its well-developed and demonstrates the quality of your research. You should also arranging it to make life of your reader easier: sort authorities in alphabetical order, provide full and coherent information about every source, distinguish and assign different cases and awards depending on their type or jurisdiction they come from. Do it as if you were supposed to use this table to quickly find sufficient information about each and every citation and quote.

  1. Stick to 3-layer structure

This rule is relevant mainly for the main argument and how its structure is shown in the table of authorities. It should not have more than 3 layers. What does it mean? Let’s look at this example:

I. This tribunal lacks jurisdiction over the claims brought by Claimant

A. Claimant failed to comply with the pre-arbitral steps provided in the arbitration clause

  1. Claimant did not negotiate with Respondent for 30 days as per the clause
  2. Claimant did not submit the case to obligatory mediation

B. The arbitration clause encompasses only claims for liquidated damages

  1. The wording of the clause is specific and narrow
  2. Parties expressed common intention to interpret the clause narrowly during negotiations

This short piece could have been taken from a table of contents of a written submission. As you can see, it is relatively short and the reader need just a quick look to understand what the issue is about and arguments are being put forward. It would even be possible to  understand what the argument is about just be including the two first layers of arguments. If there were four layers, the pictures becomes blurred – and you should strive for clarity. Three-layer structure is optimal for the purpose of the table of contents and the overall skeleton of your memorandum. Firstly, it is uncomplicated, but provides you with enough space to mention all key points. Secondly, it makes you more disciplined and prevents from crossing a threshold beyond which chopping your memorandum into more separate bits actually makes it impossible to follow. Thirdly, in a moot court case it is hardly ever necessary to divide the argument further, since it is not complex enough. Of course, it might happen that you need an additional tier somewhere within the text of the memorandum. In that case, I recommend omitting it in the table of contents, as it will be likely too detailed.

I hope that acting in accordance with these guidelines will help you conceptualize and create a written submission that’s a pleasure to read. In the next post we will dig deeper and see how to structure individual arguments supporting particular claims and statement. Stay tuned!

All the best,

Marek

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