Friday, January 18, 2013

My first mooting experience.

Mooting is kind of, but miles different, from a debate. It's in an imaginary courtroom setting, with a judge sitting before you, and you have to represent your client and argue your case before the judge. Also, while debaters can spew theories and throw speculations around, mooters have to rely on precedents set in previous cases, meaning we have to read a disgusting amount of full judgements to find quotes by judges that will help our claim.

With a heart laden with trepidation, I decided to take a big step out of my comfort zone, and throw my hat into the mooting ring this season.

Those who know me, know that I dread speeches and any form of public speaking. I'm pretty comfortable expressing myself when I'm writing or when I'm having casual discussions with people, but put me in a formal situation and watch every part of me freeze up. It's like someone has just picked me up and dropped me into an ice box.

My brain refuses to spin, my throat becomes completely dry, and words just choke themselves coming out. I turn into a stuttering mess, and the level of discomfort I feel when public speaking is pretty equivalent to that of getting an injection. Both are painful to bear, and you just can't wait to get it over with because you hate it so much.

Clearly, I was out of my comfort zone. So why the hell did I do it?

Honestly, I needed something positive to put on my rather barren personal statement for university applications. Plus, I was in an irrational, 'what-the-hell-just-go-for-it' mood that day. So I did.

What was even out of character, was that I joined without a mooting partner (each moot team comprises of two members). So I had to approach the guy in charge of signups and ask him if there was anyone else that had registered solo that I could pair up with. Basically, it means I was willing to spend a lot of time with a complete stranger, again uncharacteristically. These surprises make me wonder whether I'm still a shy person deep down, or have I changed and my brain just hasn't caught up to it.

Luckily though, this guy Oliver also approached the organiser for the same reason at the same time. Since we both sort of knew each other, we decided to pair up.

And so we skip ahead to Round One.

Being first time mooters and all, you'd think Oliver and I would have started preparing much earlier. And you know, would have asked around for the most efficient methods of moot prep. After all, we had already received our moot question about a month before our match.

But nope, in typical Malaysian procrastination spirit, we only began preparing a week earlier. And with no clue what to do and where to look, we basically stumbled around like headless chickens the first few days. Until now, we have no idea how we managed to spend whole days being so busy but accomplishing zilch.

And then crunch time came. We had 1 day before we had to hand in our skeleton arguments (a rough outline of points you plan to argue which you need to exchange with your opponent 48 hours before your match), and we thought we had loads of time, because our points were already in our heads. We could finish up in 5 minutes, we thought.


Once we wrote things down, suddenly nothing made sense anymore. We had too few ideas, each lacking more depth than the other. We had no idea where to fit our case authorities, or which extract we wanted to use, and where we wanted to place them in our speeches.

So we stayed up the whole night at McD trying to make two skeleton arguments we were satisfied with. Went back at close to 4am when words started swimming before our eyes for a short rest, then met up again at around 8.30am to continue.

Once we got that out of the way, submitting the skeletons an hour late to boot, it was time to prepare the dreaded bundle of authorities (photostated judgements to show evidence of judges' quotes used). Again, we thought this would be a breeze.

"Why don't we just split the cases and meet back tomorrow? We'll print every highlighted page. Can finish early one lah."

Once again, wrooooong.

L and I both had church obligations the next day (Sunday), so we agreed to meet around 6pm. But the thing is, we also had unfinished assignments that we needed to attend to first.

Predictably, things didn't go as smoothly as we planned. We only managed to finish deciding which pages to print at past 9pm, and only finished printing at 10pm. We managed to beg the kindly uncle at the copy shop to allow us to photostat 4 more sets, but he wasn't willing to help us bind anything.

So we rushed off to another Indian shop, which happened to be closing. Again, Oliver's persuasive skills came through and we got our bundles bound by three very disgruntled guys repeatedly swearing at us in Tamil. (Oliver knows Tamil swear words.)

Which left us with 5 bundles, each with around 60 pages (we would  find out the next day that we only needed to prepare 2 bundles and profusely swear). The next step was to highlight the relevant areas we wanted to quote. At this point, it was 11pm, with slightly over 12 hours to our moot, and we still hadn't written out speeches.

Long story short, between L's unfinished assignment and our sheer exhaustion, our preparation only ended at 5+am the next morning. We had under 2 hours to sleep (nap) before we had to get up and going.

I didn't manage to sleep that night. The intense fear of public speaking and dread at embarrassing myself kept me up and angsty. After an unpleasant hour of restless sleep, it was time to get up and head to college and our imminent loss caused by my inability to string words together, and turning into a blubbering mess in the moot court.

This was us, probably at 4am and the peak of grumpiness:

Can you feel the non-existent love already, people?

And so, after we trudged on for 3 full days of practically non-stop moot prep, guess what? WE WON!!! (*proceeds to do strange victory dance. Wheeeeeeee!)

Most likely, it was because our opponents weren't as serious about the competition as we were. Maybe it was because we had a really nice judge that I personally feel was biased towards helping us. Least likely but still possibly, maybe we both are better mooters than we thought.

All I can say is, I really lucked out with Oliver as my partner. We work well together, we stay near each other, we both don't have curfews, and he has the most understanding girlfriend in the world that doesn't resent me for spending so much time with him. We balance each other out, because Oliver is extremely outspoken and charismatic, but I am far more organised, and we're both hardworking and competitive.

But still, even though we get along so well, one can only spend a certain amount of time with another person in a high-stress environment. By the day of our match, we had already told each other countless times that "I wanna slap you" (mostly him) and "I wanna kill you" (mostly me), and names had long been replaced with "idiot" or "asshole" or "noob". I've honestly never experienced such a feeling, where being within the proximity of someone whom I didn't dislike, filled me which so much irritation and annoyance that I constantly wanted to lash out.

So as much as I'm thankful for having him as my partner, I'm even more thankful for the short break we'll be taking from each other. Oliver and I have already agreed to avoid each other for a week-long "moot partner detox".

So, what are my honest feelings about mooting?

Well, it's still not my cup of tea. While I may have loosened the bonds of shyness, I still remain an introvert that just doesn't enjoy public speaking, no matter how good I may get at it. While I still plan to make the most out of this experience, I highly doubt that I will be voluntarily joining the next season.

But this doesn't mean I won't give it my all while I still remain in this competition. I'm far too competitive to let anything easily slip by without a fight, being a kiasu Chinese and all.

And so we move on to Round Two. (Ding Ding!)

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