Thriving at the Human Rights Moot Court Competition

@Alejandra Acedo

“This is a great opportunity that doesn’t exist in other places and it trains students in a different manner. It is very similar to a real, practical experience.” –Amaya

The past 4th of May, a team of students from our Bachelor of Laws won the European Human Rights Moot Court Competition in Strasbourg, France. The participants were Marie Trapet, Luis Moyano and Marit Thomasdotter, who were guided by the professor Amaya Úbeda and Maria Diaz. They won the final round against the team from King’s College London, and were awarded with a traineeship at the European Court of Human Rights. Moreover, Marie Trapet won the prize for the best orator.

Through an interview, the students and professors reflected about their experience and provided advice for successful teamwork and to thrive in this competition.

Interview with Amaya

What are the most relevant aspects to take into account when guiding a team for this competition?

One is of course, you need to invest quite some time in order to discuss the whole group the case, what it means and identify specific arguments to be developed. The second important aspect is to have a good group of students, we had an excellent group, and they start little by little taking it in their own hands. They still need the guidance and feedback, but they start working on their own. In the case of this moot, there are two stages: written and oral, and only if you pass the written stage you are able to continue in the oral. During the oral stage, the competition is more in the hands of students, as they are the ones that will have to plead publicly, and it is then a lot of team effort – so students need to have a good preparation, investment and to devote enough time.

Which qualities do you consider essential for students and teams to have in order to be successful in this competition?

They have to be students with a lot of passion for law and legal arguments. It is not very necessary to have a lot of knowledge in the beginning; they are able to acquire it throughout, which is why they should be passionate. They need to invest time and take it seriously, so it means investing a lot of resources. The last aspect is that they should have a team spirit, as this is one of the key elements to make it work. The mix of the three – good preparation and work, passion and a team spirit.

Why do you consider it is relevant for students to take advantage of these opportunities offered by IE University?

This is a great opportunity that doesn’t exist in other places and it trains students in a different manner. It is very similar to a real, practical experience. It is not only about courses or simple exercises, but you plead as if it was a real case. The types of reactions and questions are also very real – they are great training to speak in public, develop your knowledge and legal skills, which is something not easy to find in everyday classes. In the end of the day, as they won, they also had the opportunity of completing and internship at the European Court of Human Rights, so it is an extra element. This type of opportunities should be essential for the student’s legal training.

Interview with the team

What would be your advice for law students that wish to thrive in this competition?

Marit:

To begin, it is important to work hard on all the individual assignments, receive and acknowledge all possible feedback, and then materialize it in the written submissions – all this so as to increase your chances in becoming selected for the final team that are to compete if being classified. Then, if/when being classified for the final rounds in Strasbourg it is essential to prepare, prepare, prepare and to listen to, and work together with, your team mates. Lastly, it is just as important making sure you enjoy the journey as well!

Luis:

The moot requires a lot of precision and individual studying, as you usually study a new field of law, even if at university you have studied EU Law, the moot will not be related to the course. It is true that learning and knowing about advocacy skills is a must, but a big portion of it is also knowing the law and the cases very well. My advice is to be critical with the analysis that you do and always try to think about arguments in your favor and against. This might sound obvious but it is necessary to do well in the competition, as the judges will question your weakest points and you need to be prepared to handle these. In summary, be precise and critical with your arguments. In addition, there is never a point where you know everything, and don’t be confident that you know everything because that never happens.

Aida:

My advice would be to really know the issue you are discussing. In the sense that if you will be pleading exclusively for the respondent, it is also important to have a clear idea of what the applicant can say as that truly gives you a global view of the case and you will be ready for whatever question you might be asked by the judges, and particularly for the rebuttal at the end of the pleading. Additionally, having a very clear structure is in my opinion crucial, I think out of the different structures we saw throughout the oral round, ours was the easiest one to follow for both applicant and respondent and having a very structured pleading makes your intervention easier to follow. not only for you but also for the judges.

Marie:

I would say motivation and passion are key components not only to do well in such a competition, but also to enjoy it to the fullest. It is a highly demanding competition, with really well prepared teams, where anything that will make you shine a little more will make the difference.

Which qualities do you consider are necessary for a team to work effectively together?

Marit:

Being humble is in my opinion key. Then, it is undoubtedly also about listening; paying attention and being flexible, as you when being part of a team not only need to coordinate with yourself. Important to keep in mind is that all you do in a team will affect the others as well – both ups and downs.

Luis:

Everyone has their own work method, so the first and most important quality is to let everyone work in their own way, not to try to impose a certain work method. It is very likely that, within a team, there are at least two or three different ways of working, so the right method is not just one, but trying to combine the different ones. For example, I am not a person that likes to meet and discuss the arguments all the time, but more a person that prefers to do that on my own and once I do, bring it all together. But other members prefer to do most work together, so we had to balance this out.

Aida:

I really think trust is fundamental for any team to work effectively. Knowing and trusting that everyone will do their part at their own pace, and trying not to overstep is essential. I think it’s all about finding a balance between giving enough support to your teammates in whatever they might need, while at the same time giving them enough space to work by themselves.

Marie:

Commitment and trust. Commitment, because the preparation of the team will take a lot of time and one has to be engaged and ready to dedicate it. Trust is necessary as well, because during the competition the performance of each member of the team is key. One should trust that the ones pleading will perform well, but also for those who are not speaking at the moment but will instantly assist the speaker with case law and all sort of answers to the judge’s questions.

What do you consider is a key characteristic for a great orator?

Marie:

Showing enthusiasm and believing in what you are defending is key, as this is translated into each pleading, and so, in fact, one of the judges at the semifinals told us that “when you are passionate about the topic, you engage with and take the [pleading] room along with your arguments, which makes it so much more interesting”.