Leong Chan Hui

Mooting vs Litigation, Attachment Internship


Mooting in University v Litigation in  the Firm

It has been a while since I  graduated from the university.   I will never forget neither the exam stress, nor  every joyful  moment  shared with my  fellow classmates  throughout the academic years.   The  thrill, the excitement, will always be remembered.   I  still  remember  vividly that we had been “forced” to participate  in  the mooting competition despite finals being scheduled 2 weeks right after the competition.  It was one of many unforgettable experiences throughout my university years.  I  was expected  to  learn   about the   practical procedures,    Unfortunately  for me, my expectations were too high,  it gave me a quick, but brief  glance as to what  real litigation would look like.

I  found out that mooting  and   litigation are two totally  different things, after a short attachment program under the guidance of  Mr Alex Chang.

First of all, what is  mooting?

Mooting  is a competitive mock trial  hearing.   It takes the form of a debate about the legal merits of an appeal  in a fictitious civil or criminal case.  In the moot court,  moots are not concerned with the niceties of the  procedures  and are just  mock  trials.   Consequently there are  no witnesses and no juries in mooting.   It shows the best and most glamorous part in  litigation.

What is Litigation

From  what I  have observed during the mini-pupillage  program  in the office of  Mr Alex Chang, a litigation process inevitably involves all the heavy, tireless pre-trial preparation work in order prepare for the day in court.

As a contrast, rather than  fictional  facts, real world litigation  struggles  to prove material facts that are  in favour of  the  clients.   It involves examination of witnesses, presentation of evidence, countless researching  hours, and usually takes  months  (or years in the past)  to get a judgment.  In a moot court, the facts  given  are not in dispute,  and procedures are not an issue.   It  is  a fancy, yet over-simplified form of  litigation.    I   witnessed  counsels  striving  hard to prove  material facts  hoping that  judgment will be in their favour.

Moot vs Litigation

Generally,  mooting   will  involve two teams  of two law students,  one of whom acts as “leading” or “senior” counsel,   and the other take on the mantle as  “Junior” counsel.   The team members decide between themselves and usually the  more  experienced  mooter will be the senior.   It was a competition,  the  worst case scenario  neither  penalty  nor damages will be granted.

Back to the earth,  the human resources  involved  in litigation are  far beyond  mooting  competitions.  In a litigation firm,  it requires a support system “behind the scene”.      lf  counsel  lose  their  case,  their clients shall face the consequences (be it monetary compensation or penal consequence).

Mooting  will start with a moot problem. The hypothetical facts given are usually straightforward, without having to prove your case with the tendering of  evidence.  In  litigation, the facts were rather complex.  To convince a judge, counsel  will have to collate  and   present  evidence  to prove the existence of facts.   Linking  the evidence  to the  law  is usually the biggest challenge.

In moot courts,  the  skills to expunge  evidential  weight of the opponent’s  evidence presented is not tested.  I realised during this short attachment program, advocacy skills  were not taught during my 4 academic years.  The advocacy skill  of Mr Alex Chang was  an eye-opener,   especially when he   cross-examined the  witnesses to have them disagree with their own case,   and to use the opponent’s witness statement in  favour of his argument.   I was  taught to be meticulous  about  every  single detail. It is an essential value to distinguish a  good lawyer from a normal one.

The  only  similarity  between  mooting and litigation is hard work, if taken remotely and seriously, isit involves many hours of leafing through case reports and textbooks, forcing the counsels  to think  meticulously  about the legal issues raised, the stress levels in the firm make  major examinations look like picnic.   From   what I have  observed   in the office of Mr. Alex Chang,  all of the firm’s litigation  members  worked  until  late night on occasions.   Moot court preparation is a walk in the parklane.

Ned Sherrin

For the very unlucky few, mooting/ litigation can  result in public humiliation. I would like to quote a story of a well known writer/ broadcaster  Ned Sherrin.  Interviewed by  The Times 12 years ago, he described the most embarrassing moment of his life as follows:

“I   was  one of  four young barristers who had to argue a mock trial in Gray’s Inn. I had divided my brief  with my partner, but when he got up to speak he was doing the part that I had prepared. When it came to me the judge gave me a rough  time. Suddenly,  I heard bell ringing and saw  a bright purple  light-and  I fainted”  Age of Enlightenment:  Ned Sherrin, The Times, 22 July 2003.

Perhaps it was after  this experience,  Mr Sherrin decided against a career at the Bar. Thus, why put yourself through the hard work, the stress and the possibility of  keeling  over  in public?

I do agree  mooting/  litigation can put a person into stress in which normal person cannot endure. The compensation  however, is, when the matters go in your favour,   be  it in  moot court/ litigation, the thrill excitement and fulfilment   is  priceless.   From my point of view,  a  moot/ litigation sometimes is synonymous  with an adventure, including discovery, excitement,  pressure, with one ultimate goal to achieve.   To  be  frank, all jobs have   stress.

I  found out,  litigation  lawyers are specialised in their respective fields and not  all-rounders.

Lastly, I quote   a statement  from one of my lecturers…

“… mooting is the fastest way to learn the law…”

The same goes for  litigation, I believe,  it is the best  mechanism  to train a fresh law graduate.

Ain’t  it something beautiful to have a taste of victory after  the hassles, stress and hard work?

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