Trial triumphant

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am

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The fictional Republic of Libidan may not exist on a map. However, winning the International Criminal Court (ICC) Trial Competition 2012 has certainly put City University of Hong Kong (CityU) School of Law firmly on the map in the competitive world of mooting.

The CityU School of Law is the first Asian law school to win the prestigious competition since it was set up five years ago and recognised by the ICC as the only competition of its type in the world. Mooting is often described as the closest experience a student can have while at university to appearing in court.

On the way to securing the top spot, the CityU team triumphed over several top-ranking university law schools, including Pace, Warwick, Miami, Bond, La Trobe and the University of Hong Kong.

David Sun, chairman of the CityU Council, says it is exposure and contests such as the ICC Trial Competition that put CityU, the law faculty and CityU School of Law students on the map. 'This is indeed a significant achievement, especially when we were competing with top-ranking law schools from different parts of the world,' says Sun.

Held in The Hague, in the Netherlands, home of the ICC, the contest attracted some 50 teams representing top law schools. CityU School of Law not only secured the top spot, it also fielded one of the youngest teams in the competition.

During the week-long contest, teams set their defence and arguments before a panel of scholars, lawyers and internationally renowned judges from the ICC and International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia. The legal foundation for the competition involved allegations of crimes against humanity and charges against the imaginary Libidan president for encouraging ritual slavery.

To prepare, team members Nathan Ma Hin-che, Jacky Fung Wai-nam, Bettina Wang Zhenyuan, Brian Chok Man-ho and Theo Li Jiani spent eight months playing defence and prosecution roles and perfecting their research and advocacy skills. 'We worked together through birthdays and holidays, including Chinese New Year,' says Li. 'We had great coaching and support from our faculty leading up to the event.'

With the belief that the experience could strengthen his career opportunities, Chok says mooting offers a chance to develop analysis, legal reasoning and public speaking skills.

'The best law firms look at what you can offer, so through taking part in mooting competitions, you can show you are able to develop coherent, rigorous and persuasive arguments,' says Chok, who together with Li last year won the Susan J Ferrell Intercultural Human Rights Moot championship trophy held in the US.

Ma also agrees mooting is an important part of legal education because it provides the skills training necessary to become a lawyer or barrister. 'It is useful for developing legal skills of analysis and interpretation, but also personal skills of argument and public speaking,' says Ma, who was awarded the Best Prosecution Oralist and Best Oralist overall titles.

Fung believes taking part in mooting competitions can help form a platform for the future. 'Mooting is part of the full-package legal education we receive at CityU. Rather than simply study law, we are able to practise the law and advocacy and apply skills that in the future could help us to excel in the legal industry,' says Fung.

Wang says the competition encapsulates one of the most important skills lawyers need: the ability to make a persuasive and valid legal argument. 'Unlike television courtroom dramas, which are full of emotion, you need to have the argument and research to support your position,' says Wang.

Dr Mark Kielsgard, team coach and assistant professor at CityU School of Law, says it is committed to teaching law in a real-world context, and that mooting is part of how the faculty prepares future lawyers. 'Mooting offers value-added skills because it helps our students become better researchers, analysts and oralists. These make our students highly competitive and highly valued in the workplace, and gives them a distinctive advantage during the early part of their career.'