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This year’s Stetson’s International Environmental Moot Court Competition held in Florida was won by The Law Society of Ireland. Nonetheless, the competition saw some strong performances by the Indian team too, with Sagnik Das from National Law University, Jodhpur winning the Best Oralist Award (Preliminary Rounds) and the University of Jammu winning the Spirit of Stetson Award.
Bar & Bench spoke to Sagnik Das about his experience at the moot and this is what he had to say.
Bar & Bench: Why did you choose this moot?
Sagnik Das: Being extremely interested in international law and having participated in other international law moot court competitions like Philip C. Jessup before, I decided to take up the Stetson Moot in my third year. Alongside Jessup (and perhaps Manfred Lachs), Stetson is one of the most prestigious international moot court competitions dealing with issues of international law before the forum of the International Court of Justice. I also had some prior exposure to areas of international environmental law and thought that Stetson would be the ideal opportunity to get to learn more in both these areas (of international law and international environmental law). Our college had been doing really well at this moot in its previous editions and this made me somewhat confident that our team would also manage to clear the national rounds and do well at the international rounds. When I was therefore, the presented the opportunity of taking up this moot, I did not think twice before deciding to jump into it.
B&B: How did you prepare? Any special strategies an oralist must keep in mind?
SD: Our preparation for the moot started in the month of April (of 2014), about two months before the problem (the Record) for this year had come out. We started with a thorough reading of basics of Public International Law and International Environment Law. The problem came out in late June and the national rounds happened in late November. Having cleared the national rounds (and since the written memorials had already been submitted by November itself), we focused extensively on preparing for the world rounds in Florida, by doing an extensive number of oral practices.
While I cannot think of any one specific thing that an oralist must keep in mind, I do think that it is extremely important to have an extensive knowledge of not just the subject areas of the moot, but also other associated areas and a good grasp of the basics of international law. A good speaker would always have a desire to read that one more article, that one more case and that one more book to keep enhancing his knowledge of the relevant areas and be prepared for whatever the judges or his opponents may throw at him. I feel that it is also equally important for an oralist to speak at a slow speed. I think Indians naturally have a tendency to speak fast and it might not be comfortable for foreign judges at international rounds to follow us properly. At the same time, being extremely calm and confident is of crucial importance. Time management is also imperative. One of my coaches used to say that it is always good practice to be a fair counsel; one who is willing to give up (or concede to) his weaker arguments and focus on his really strong ones and address the Court only on those. Otherwise, if one insists on arguing everything, then time management will be a huge issue.
B&B: What was the competition like?
SD: The level of competition at Stetson was very good and it was pretty tough for us in most of our rounds. These were teams from across the world that had won their own national rounds and there was a lot of finesse in their oral argumentation. All of our opponents were not only very well prepared, but also adopted very smart strategies. We had to significantly raise our level of argumentation and speaking to compete against and defeat our opponents.
That aside, the moot was very well organized and the hospitality extended by Stetson College was very warm.
B&B: Any special moments from the Moot?
SD: In the national rounds, the time when we won the quarter finals and qualified to the international rounds and later when I won the Best Student Advocate award, were very special moments. At the international rounds, I could think of a couple of moments which were very special to me. One of them was when I got the Best Oralist of the World Rounds Award and my co-speaker (who also happens to be a very good friend) got the Fourth Best Speaker citation.
Aside from that, I shall always remember something that one of the judges at the international rounds said to me about my speaking. She said: “If there was something beyond excellent, I would definitely call you that!” That was very flattering and I shall always cherish that comment as one of the best things I have ever heard about my speaking.