Erfahrungsbericht des 2022 FU Jessup Teams
Human Rights on the internet, evidence in front of the ICJ, Fake News and the principle of non-intervention, cybercrime and sovereignty in cyberspace, a people’s right to self-determination and diplomatic relations law: The Compromis of the 2022 Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition seemingly held a boundless number of legal problems in store for this year’s participants. Excited about the opportunity to dig deep into some of the most pressing contemporary legal questions, our Jessup experience started at the end of August 2021, when we had our first Webex team meetings on public international law. All coming from various academic backgrounds, we had different levels of knowledge on the subject, and those first sessions allowed us to start on the same page. The 2022 team was the first international Jessup team of the FU: two of us were German students and two were Erasmus students from the United Kingdom and France. Practically speaking, this meant having different working methods and rhythms during the semester. But most importantly, the diversity of our team resembled the spirit of the Jessup, as it is a competition about opening horizons and looking beyond national borders across the international legal order.
The Compromis was released by the International Law Students Association in early September. By that time, we were all gathered in Berlin, and after each of us had had the first reading, we joined in-person to collectively read through every single paragraph again and note down all pieces of information that we deemed important. The question at hand was now who would take the side of the Applicant and who would be Respondent? Admittedly, all our sympathies were with Antara since Ravaria’s smear campaign on Pano was slightly too obvious. But picking a side whose methods you do not necessarily approve of can be intriguing as well. After all, sides were picked soon and it was upon Marie and Elisa to represent the Applicant while Callum and Dario took on the task to defend the position of Ravaria. Both Applicant and Respondent made four claims against the other side that mirrored each other. This meant that Applicant and Respondent were well advised to share their research with their respective counterclaimant. In this way, each would not only possibly find arguments they didn’t think about earlier but also prepare themselves for the arguments that other teams could bring up against them during the oral phase. We now had time until 12 January to assemble our Memorials (“Memos”) which are the written pleadings each team has to submit to ILSA before the oral rounds commence.
After an initial round of research on this year’s topics, our first draft submission to our coach Lea was set for the beginning of October. From now on we were to submit our work in progress every two weeks to have Lea look over it and offer critique and advice. Additionally, we would start meeting twice a week. On Wednesdays, the whole team would meet for oral preparations that ranged from reciting poetry to improvising speeches. On Fridays, we met in pairs with our respective counter claimants to share arguments and discuss the structure of our Memorials.
Drafting the Memos turned out to be a challenging task. Generally, written arguments are required to be presented in a very specific structure referred to as IRAC (Issue - Rule - Application - Conclusion). This structure is indicative of what German law students are indoctrinated with from day one of their academic life - the famous “Gutachtenstil”. Yet, the Memos must not be confused with a “Gutachten” as they are not written from a “neutral” perspective weighing up all possible arguments. Instead, the Memo comprises only arguments that are favorable for the client. This requires biased thinking that starts from the conclusion as opposed to what is usually taught in German universities until the First State Exam. Therefore, one has to come up with creative solutions to legal problems at times. This can be both exciting and frustrating.
Even more challenging was the search for authoritative primary sources of international law. The Jessup aims to present the students with contemporary problems to international law. This means that many of the issues of the case are still highly controversial or almost “untouched” by international lawyers which makes it difficult to come up with a concrete rule. The problems are so specific that a solid command of the basics of international law is almost mandatory. This makes the written phase especially challenging for those less experienced in the field.
Consequently, as time progressed and winter was coming, our stress levels increased. From November on, we submitted our Memos once a week. From now on, there was little time and nerve left for the rest of the curriculum. Peak stress was reached at the beginning of the Christmas holidays as none of our Memos were yet to be fully finished. It might have been the Christmas miracle or just many sleepless nights, but on 2 January our Memos were eventually ready for editing.
We joined forces again during this week and met every day during the twelve days preceding the submission to go through every Memo, sentence by sentence and word by word. The rules of the Jessup are quite strict when it comes to the word count limit (10,000 words per Memo) and the right formatting of the footnotes. By editing for around 10h per day, formulating and re-formulating every sentence we had written so far, we finally managed to make our Memos comply with those exigencies. Unfortunately, covid was never far away at that time, and our editing week was done mainly in hybrid, as one of our teammates got infected at that time. We still managed to all get together on the last day, and after a particularly intense last editing afternoon, we submitted the written memos around 20h30.
The preparation of the oral pleadings started a little less than a week after the submission, which we found to be a rather short break at that point. We had to gather our energy again after the submission, and the intense rhythm of the preparation was at first a bit overwhelming. We originally completed a plethora of classes on oral presentation skills alongside our written memo preparations. These focused on developing awareness of hand gestures, fine-tuning breathing techniques and filming themselves presenting speeches to critique our posture, diction and word choices. After finally completing our written memos, we will rapidly thrust into oral preparations the following week. These oral pleadings included three weekly pleadings including our coach as the bailee or president and special guest judges, including past Jessup Students. Our oral pleadings were also in front of University Professors and academic experts in fields of research closely pertaining to the problems in our case. This encouraged consistent accuracy and memorisation of key dates, case summaries and article numbers for all our sources.
We also participated in a weekly oral pleading with commercial law firms exposing us to completely novel questions, including the infamous question ‘What about Eichmann?’, and critiques for our performances. This particularly helped to develop our spontaneity and adaptiveness. We also had to regularly and creatively consider our entire oral pleading structure to better counteract and prepare against opposition arguments and our feedback after each session. This was also achieved by judges frequently asking us to start with our second claim, instead of our first or to focus on particular human rights violations. While having to try and apply feedback was challenging at times, it was especially rewarding to feel a constant sense of personal development and growth within our debating capabilities.
After almost six months of intense preparation, we were very excited when the German National Rounds finally came around at the end of February 2022 right after the “Klausurenphase”. Equipped with a large care package made up of soups, cakes, candy bars, drinks and Jessup merch sent to us by Universität Heidelberg, the organizing university of this year’s German National Rounds, we felt prepared to take on the upcoming four days: As the National Rounds the previous year, the competition began with a virtual online reception and subsequent social event. After the reception, we found out whom our opponents were going to be for the preliminary rounds and we also received their Memorials as a basis to prepare for the upcoming pleadings.
56, in this field of law. Feeling confused and concerned about the unfolding current events, but also feeling proud of our performances and relieved that we did not experience any major technical difficulties during the pleadings, we were able to finish the competition in overall sixth place out of 18. One of our teammates even received the award for best oralist and our Applicant memorial received the overall second-highest score in the German National Rounds. Though we were very content with our accomplishments, we were unfortunately not able to advance to the international rounds (only the top 4 German teams qualify) and therefore did not have the opportunity to plead against any international teams.
Ultimately, however, the Jessup was an unparalleled opportunity for legal research, argument construction and oral presentation. It challenged our legal knowledge, our creativity, our resilience and sometimes even our patience (e.g. when having to individually review our footnotes). Yet as a team we left with a distilled sense of comradery and personal improvement.