Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Some more Vis tips, from a Vienna runner-up

The only time an Indian team won Vis was in 2003. In 2009, the team of ILS Law School, Pune (Sneha Jain, Shraddha Deshmukh and Preeti Sukhthanker) missed it between the cup and the lip when they emerged runners up in a close contest with Victoria, Wellington. In addition to being the only Indian team to have entered the finals other than the 2003 NUJS team, the team also secured two Honourable Mentions for its oralists. In the following paragraphs, Sneha Jain shares her experience with Vis. She also reveals the factors that contributed to the success of her team.

The Hongkong Vis Moot just concluded and the Vienna Vis Moot is now knocking on the door! Deepak has beautifully encapsulated the essential points to be kept in mind while tackling the Vis Moot. He has requested that I share a bit about our team's Vis experience during the 16th Vis Moot, 2009 and what we learnt during our journey to the finals. So here goes:

1. 1. Knowing your arbitrator's domestic legal system (civil or common law) helps in structuring your arguments. In any case, I'd suggest that regardless of the constitution of the panel, oralists must cite both - statutes and case laws, equally. In one of our rounds, one of our arbitrators hailed from a country with a civil law system but practised international arbitration under both civil and common law systems. Consequently, his questions were mixed. Citing both supporting statutes and case laws helped us show that our research was balanced and that we were not inclined towards any single system in particular. 

2. Pointer for Indian teams - Indians are, by nature, argumentative and aggressive. Tone down your decibel levels and modulate your body language and expression. Loudness and Aggression are not construed as intelligence and confidence, but may come across as intimidatory behaviour. In one of our rounds, a speaker tapped the table twice with his index finger (to emphasise his point) but this did not go down well with the judges. It was interpreted as a sign of disrespect and rudeness. 

3. STICK TO YOUR TIME LIMITS! This is absolutely essential and one cannot emphasise it enough. Judges at Vis Moot are sticklers for time limits. When a speaker argued beyond his allotted 15 mins, the arbitrators were quick to point it out as a sign of unpreparedness. Shooting beyond the time limit is an indication of lacking the skill to communicate your arguments effectively in a concise manner.

4. Different arbitrators like to hear arguments in a different order - some will wait for you to finish your arguments before asking questions, some will ask you questions during your arguments. So ensure that you are well prepared for each situation. Have practise runs with your team mates. Time yourself for all probable questions during your practise runs. Factor the time taken to answer the arbitrators questions within the time allotted to each speaker.

5. Do not divert your co-speaker's attention/flow of arguments at any point (tapping elbow/shoulder/thighs, nudging, pointing with finger/pen etc.). If you wish to bring any point to his/her notice, calmly slip a note with the point written boldly and concisely so that he/she can notice it immediately. During the finals of our pre-moot, the co-speaker of the opponent team kept discreetly nudging his speaker and passing chits. This was noticed by the judges. They commented later that they felt there was no team co-ordination and the co-speaker didn't have faith in his team mate.

6. Something as simple as - tucking a flock of hair behind your ear, bending sideways to scratch your ankle, crossing and un-crossing your legs repeatedly, holding a pencil/pen in your hand while arguing, looking around distractedly while your co-speaker is arguing, nodding your head in agreement while your co-speaker is arguing, may distract the judges. So - make sure that once the arbitration begins, you keep your hand gestures, body movement, head shakes, smiles etc. to the minimum. Pay attention even while your co-speaker is arguing. The arbitrators may ask you to address your co-speaker's arguments anytime!

7. 7. It is important to develop a rapport with the judges. Gauge the temperament of the panel and if you think it'll fly, crack a joke or two. Laughter is the best ice-breaker and often earns brownie points! However, be careful of the kind of jokes you crack. Keep them clean, well-intentioned, sensitive and politically correct.

8. 8. Our mantra at every stage of the Moot was - ONE STEP AT A TIME. The first 4 days are fairly light in terms of pressure, since only one round is conducted per day. However, once the knock-outs start, the pressure builds up. Prepare for each round individually without getting distracted with the next set of arguments. Focus on the opponent at hand.

9. Most of all - ENJOY YOURSELF. Your passion shows when you have fun doing what you do and judges will definitely notice that. It makes a difference.

To conclude... in the words of Billy Joel ... Vienna waits for you... go claim it! :)


  1. preeti sukthankerApril 12, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    Sneha has given a beautiful summary of the things we've experienced during the moot. She however did not share a very vital element in her post - 'the role of the researcher' Sneha was one researcher who knew the arguments and research of both the speakers, kept a close watch on the team while we argued and on the opponents and observed the judges. Most importantly, she was brutally honest with us on our performance. Sneha had been a great support to us, taking care of every minute details so we improved with every round. So all researchers in Vis moot- you have a key role to play!

  2. The champions have laid the table for the paticipants, however another point is to know your rebuttals, since every speaker is asked to do it individually for themselves or at times for both one must be aware of the co-speakers arguments and not restrict themselves to the jurisdiction and merits. Also please note that it is vital you break up your time limit to include time for rebuttals therein and questions if your panel allows you to do so..

    A final word- chuck the memorials and plead from pointers.

    This coming a day before the moot might not be too useful but for future Vis mooters, do inculcate this article in your preparation. All the best.


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