Moot Court Advocacy Series – Season III: ‘Teamwork, Episode III: ‘When You Write’

People often stay that each team is as good as its worst performing member. As much as I agree with this statement I still believe you can design your team and its activities in a way that reduces the risk you will fail to generate coherent, good results. It is especially necessary during the written stage of each moot court where four, six and sometimes even more people need to deliver their contribution. To make sure you are not held back as a team when you are drafting, think about it:

  1. Set out rules and schedule you will stick to

Let’s start with a brainy quote you are probably well familiar with: if one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. It is hard to say if ancient Romans applied this rule to during their moot courts, but you definitely should to yours. The thing you know for sure (and it does not depend on you) is the deadline for submitting the final version of your memorandum. It is up to you as a team to set dates for regular meetings, think of internal deadlines, agree what programmes and communication channels you use and reserve time for editing and reviewing. Bear in mind moot courts usually span over several months and everyone has other plans, obligations, exams, etc. that should be taken into account. Prepare an availability calendar so that you can remember when someone might be harder to reach. This way you will avoid plenty of stressful situations and increase the chances of finishing all smaller bits of work required for the bigger whole.

  1. Divide work and discuss progress regularly

An entire moot problem will be always too hard to swallow for a single person. As I have already underlined once you are a team so that you can divide the work between each other. Firstly, in case it is not stated in the moot problem, identify contentious issues you need to address. For the sake of everybody’s convenience most moot court cases contain either an order of the moot tribunal or terms of reference that enumerate which points should be addressed. Secondly, try to be smart about the way you divide issues: take into account how experienced or knowledgeable each member of the team is and what is most interesting for each of you. You are most often required to draft memos for both parties to the dispute and it is best if you do not swap issues – writing persuasively is more effective when you deeply understand arguments of both parties. Thirdly, each time you get stuck, feel that what you write overlaps with someone else’s part or even contradicts it – reach out for support from your teammates. In the written memorandum you can use arguments that are on average more complex and sophisticated than the ones appropriate for the oral argument, so they might be more difficult to grasp. The earlier you alert everyone of the issues you need to solve together, the better. And if you would like to learn why this regular and thorough reviewing helps, have a look here.

  1. Be honest

If something is not working – do not pretend it is. No matter if it is an argument in someone else’s part of the memo, the programme you are using or something else, the faster you flag the issue, the better. A healthy team is not an organization where constructive criticism is dismissed. Be ready to give it and take it on board.

  1. Be timely

Writing, reviewing and correcting is a time-consuming exercise (if you wonder why lawyers work long hours – that is at least part of the answer). Since the moot memorandum you are supposed to draft is a rather complex piece composed of many different, yet interdependent parts a delay in one of them means a setback for everyone. That is why being timely with your work matters so much. Additionally, if you have coaches, remember that more often than not the moot is an additional activity they undertake. Their professional lives might interfere and as a team you should give them sufficient time if you really want to give them an opportunity to produce productive input for you.

  1. Learn and make active use of technology

In the previous article in this series I gave a couple of examples  of IT tools that can really boost your performance as a team. You can easily find alternative programmes and apps in case you find that they are working better for you. I just strongly encourage you to move beyond e-mail, Facebook and other distracting social media:  they are not very well suited for an organized,  collaborative effort of preparing a good written memorandum.

All the best,

Marek

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