My first moot court was an awesome adventure. But to be honest, I have one very bad memory… You know what it was? The never-ending flood of e-mails and other information from my teammates. I had to constantly cope with moot-related messages and files which all the time got mixed with my private communication, lost among different channels, misunderstood or overwritten. It was all very frustrating for the whole team struggling with the same problem. And the worst thing is – we could have avoided it by using better IT tools.
Despite the fact that nowadays we are more connected than ever before communication can become a real nuisance and an obstacle for effective teamwork. If you want your cooperation as a team to be smooth and efficient, it is crucial to agree on communication channels early on and stick to them.
At the same time, mooting is an intellectual sport. As in almost every discipline, the equipment that the players use matters. In this case, the equipment are programmes you decide to use for the purpose of the moot court. Unfortunately, many teams make a serious mistake at the very beginning by agreeing to use the channels they know and check regularly: their e-mail and Facebook. I strongly discourage you from using e-mail, Facebook groups or Messenger as your main platform for communication and sharing: these pieces of ‘equipment’ have proven highly inefficient for me and my teammates. Not only do they mix your moot related and private stuff – they simply lack the features you need to draft memorials together, gather research, discuss issues and keep track of your progress. Luckily, there is a wide range of free tools and programmes that perform much better. Here comes my top five:
- MS Word – to draft
The reason why I mention this legal world’s workhorse might seems self-explanatory: it is probably the most widespread text editor in the world with plenty of features necessary for proper formatting of your memorandum. MS Word not only allows a skilled user to create a clear and structured memorandum, but its comments and track changes tools make reviewing process much easier. But the most important reason why I mention only one text editor is that you must as a team switch to just one programme. Using different, incompatible text editors will be a nightmare when you start reviewing and compiling, since some people might be unable or unwilling to use two editors at the same time. You can use online converters, of course, but they often corrupt files and formatting, causing unnecessary delays and unnecessary work unrelated to the merits of the competition. If you want to avoid last-minute (and often irreparable) formatting issues half an hour before submission of the memorandum you should definitely use just one programme
- Slack – to talk
Slack is an online platform for teams which is supposed to structure and facilitate communication. And I have to admit – I absolutely love it! Since the first time I have used it I keep converting everyone I can to Slack. Why is it so awesome for moot court teams? There are several reasons. Firstly – it is free J Secondly, it works equally well on computers and smartphones. Thirdly, it has everything that e-mail, Messenger and other traditional tools lack. It allows to clearly define channels dedicated to specific tasks without losing the ‘big picture’ from sight, share files in a convenient way and easily go through conversations for thanks to its search tools. I remember that I was initially quite sceptical about it – who needs another app to monitor all the time? However, its usefulness bought me from the very first moment and I really cannot imagine coaching a moot court team without it.
If you would like to learn more about this programme and see it first-hand, you can visit its YouTube channel.
- Dropbox – to store and share files
Despite the fact that Slack lets you share files, you will for sure need a more organized online document library where you can store books and articles or exchange versions of the memorandum. Dropbox will be perfect – a free (in its basic version) online disc makes every file accessible whenever and wherever your team needs it without going through e-mails or carrying a computer around. It is very intuitive to use and thanks to it you can arrange your files neatly and search them with ease.
Alternatively, you can use Googledisc. However, it has two main drawback – not everyone has a Google account to use it and in my opinion it is far less convenient in terms files are displayed.
- Canva – to do graphics
You are not a Photoshop expert but need a poster or a cooperation offer for the purpose of the moot? Canva will definitely help! This foolproof programme is fun to use and after some practise even a person without much experience or talent (like me) can create decent graphics by using it. As all the tools I have suggested so far it is free in its basic version and provides extensive guides for newbies.
- Cold Turkey – to fight distraction
It does not take a productivity guru to see that we work best if we can focus on our task. Unfortunately, getting things done in an undisrupted manner is becoming increasingly difficult. Procrastination and distractions caused by Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and countless other websites and applications cost us hundreds of hours each week – and will surely eat away at the time you plan to dedicate to research or drafting. To prevent it, I recommend using Cold Turkey Blocker. This simple programme lets you cut yourself off the distracting websites or applications you might feel like using or checking when you are supposed to work. You just push a button and they get blocked for the amount of time you specify. And if you do not believe me that your performance is severely affected by these online distractions, install RescueTime first… This app measures the time you spend on different activities while contacted to the Internet. Believe me, you will be shocked when you find out what is the ratio of your “productive” time to “distracting” time! At least I was when I saw my statistics 😉
I hope these programmes will prove useful for you and help you team work efficiently. However, if you have used different IT tools and they worked for you, let me know in the comments what they are – everyone is probably curious to give them a try!