Welcome to another part of the Written Advocacy Series! This time I will explain why it is essential to read, review and revise the memorandum multiple times before you file its final, refined version.
The process of drafting a memorandum should begin with preparing a skeleton argument. You should build each part of the memo around it. However, it is unlikely that the first version you produce will be good enough to submit it and get high scores. The same usually goes for the second and the third one. If you want to produce a written submission that can compete with the best, you will have to (as a team) put a lot of effort into continuous, thoughtful and critical revision of the draft.
The most effective way to ensure that your memorandum will be thoroughly read and amended is to begin drafting early enough before the deadline and establish a routine of drafting and revising. Nowadays it is easy with track changes and comment tools available in every text editor. In a perfect world each team member responsible for a particular part of the memorandum should produce its new version every week or two. These versions should incorporate comments and remarks from the team’s coaches and other team members who had reviewed it previously. Each time a new version is produced this way, it should be read and commented by at least two different people.
This process, though time-consuming, ensures constant improvement of your written submission. By making this effort as a team you achieve the following:
- You correct all mistakes and typos
We are imperfect and so is the autocorrect. Moot court submission, often produced late at night by hard-working students, are prone to typos and unintentional ambiguities. However, judges will accept no excuses – you simply must not spoil your memo with poor spelling or grammar. It is far less likely such mistakes remain unnoticed if a group of people reads trough the draft memorandum a couple of times.
- You develop coherent style
Every single person has his or her own writing style: favourite expressions, structures, ways of introducing and concluding and other features. For instance, someone may love the word ‘hence’ and use it in every paragraph. If it is underrepresented elsewhere, it is more than obvious that a particular memorandum was written by a group of individuals rather than a team. You should avoid making such impression – incoherence and the need to quickly adapt to a new style is tiring for arbitrators, lowers persuasiveness and demonstrates you did not work as a team. On the other hand, a memorandum which seems to have been created by an individual (even though many people worked on it) should be rewarded with high scores.
- You make sure your arguments are clear and ‘flow’
As previously discussed, clarity is one of the most important features of your written submission. When you explain your position in a memorandum, you do it from a position of the one who knows it inside out. Because of it you may unintentionally be too abstract, fall victim to mental shortcuts, flood your reader with too much unfamiliar information to process at the same time – or on the contrary, omit what you consider crystal-clear, but your reader could use to understand the point you are making.
- You foster creative ideas
Every new review is a new perspective. All the team members can – and should – reflect on all issues addressed in the memorandum, challenge existing solutions and propose new ones. It is much more likely when they are continuously engaged in commenting and revising all parts of the memorandum.
- You remove internal contradictions
Moot court problems are complex and issues that you address will be likely dependent on one another to some extent. By reviewing arguments you ensure that they do not contradict or invalidate each other. It might be more difficult to spot when different parts are written parallelly rather than in connection with each other.
- You prepare for the oral argument
Last but not least, by being pushed out of the comfort zone of our part of the memorandum, you are preparing yourself for a soft landing during preparations for the oral stage. During most of the moot courts all the team members draft, but only one or two is a speaker during the simulated hearings. Nevertheless, speakers have to be able to argument all the points, not only the ones they were responsible for at the written stage.
I hope that now, when you know the benefits, the time-consuming and arduous task of going through your teammates’ parts of the written submission (and implementing their remarks to what you draft) will be a least slightly less painful 🙂