Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vindobona Junction - Some tips on writing a Vis Memo (Part I)

A mooter's best friend
The shortage of posts on Vindobona Junction in a while is due to the fact that my co-blogger and I were writing a moot memo and it was the last week before the deadline. Having submitted the memo and caught up on the pending sleep, I thought I would share some tips on Vis memos here.

I divide this post into two parts. In the first part, I will share some general tips on Vis memorials. In the second part, what I intend to share is the feedback I received for my memos for the 16th Vis. As both my memos had secured Honourable Mentions, those comments will tell you what exactly makes the difference between an Honourable Mention and a Memo Award.

Why write a good memo?
The memo does not decide your fate at the Vis to the extent that it does in many other moots. In theory, you can have a really bad memo and still win the competition (and I know a team which has done exactly that). Memo scores are not counted in deciding the outcome of an argument, and consequently the progress to the next round, in Vis. But there are separate awards for the memo. In effect, Vis boils down to three competitions - one to prevail in the oral rounds, one for the best memorial for the claimant and the other for the best memorial for the respondent. The memo awards are almost as prestigious and competitive as the awards in oral rounds. Moreover, though one's arguments in Vis are not restricted by the memo (arbitrators hardly ever open the memo or look at it while a team is speaking), writing a good memo helps one understand the structure and flow of various arguments. Both in writing a memo and in speaking at the oral rounds, a mooter is articulating an argument. So, chances are high that a person who has already articulated the argument well in a memo would be better equipped to articulate the same argument better at the oral round than a person who has not done so.

Content - What should go into the memo
At the very beginning (and this holds good for any moot memorial), have a clear structure of the arguments. It is best if the structure is planned out before you start writing - don't just go with the flow. When you are writing the memo, cover all legal and factual aspects, remembering to deal with all issues, not just those favourable to your position. Confront even the most difficult issues (such as differentiating a case which would favour the other side) and give them your best shot.

The same can be said of the Statement of Facts, which must not leave out facts that hinder one side of the argument. At the same time, it must be well-remembered that facts cannot be misstated, nor can one make factual assumptions.

A hallmark of a Vis Moot Problem is that it always deals with a product of a different industry - if in 2009 it was cars, in 1997 it was men's suits, in 2005 it was cocoa beans, and this year's problem, as we all know, deals with squid. It is always useful to research on the particular industry, since, more often than not, arguments may be devised out of such industrial research.

Citing the law
As is evident from glancing at any Vis memo, citations are given in the text of the memorial. This, and several other such requirements are given in the Rules of the competition, and I will not go further into those details.

Legal sources in arguing the Vis Problem are far beyond those in any other kind of moot - cases decided in any legitimate court in the world, opinions of scholars of international repute, statutes and legal materials of any jurisdiction in the world.

Authorities should be good in content and persuasive, although not too many in number. Take care to ensure that any legal argument or position that you are advocating is supported by various jurisdictions (e.g., common law, civil law, etc.) - "wide acceptance" is not indicated by acceptance in the UK, USA, Australia, India and such other countries which trace their roots to English common law.

Now that you have got your arguments together and filled in the legal authorities, certain things must be kept in mind while writing this memo. Your memorial must be convincing, not just telling your client's story. It should have a professional and business-like presentation, inasmuch the language should be crisp and in short sentences. Long-winded sentences only tend to confuse the reader/judge and are not appreciated in competitions of an international character where all readers are not from an English-speaking background. Especially since you must stick to the page-limit, it becomes imperative that you learn to write and get your argument across in a concise manner.

Of course, the most important aspects which a memorial judge will be looking at have been discussed above. There are, however, some basic tips on the fringe details, which, if taken care of, would help the memo in going that extra mile.

Along with the professionalism in language, it is desirable that the 'look' of the memo also be professional, in the sense that it should not be unnecessarily embellished with decorative borders or such other things. At the same time, keep the font and other things which are not mandated by the rules, pleasing to the eye, so that it makes for an easy read.

All along the memorial, while writing it or giving finishing touches, the moot memorial must remain as close to the 'real' thing as possible. Treat it as a real-life arbitration, and you can never go wrong.


  1. hey

    I was just wondering if you could tell me how many teams from India have participated in the past moot competition and what were their positions in the competition?


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