The Philip C. Jessup Competition, 2020 National Rounds, Pakistan, marked a remarkable journey for our students, team advisor, institution and Pakistan. Philip C. Jessup is the most prestigious and acclaimed competition in the world. However, for me, as a team advisor, it was especially memorable. The Jessup experience itself is an intense undertaking, but with each step we overcame and experienced more emotions and learning outcomes than words can describe. As Head of the Moot Court Society at Pakistan College of Law, I have had the honour of qualifying for the international rounds in previous years, but this year’s experience was extra special.
My team from Pakistan College of Law was a great partnership throughout this quest as we progressed towards winning the Jessup National Championship Cup, step-by-step. Like all previous years, the competition began with the release of the Moot problem in early September 2019 by the International Law Students’ Association (ILSA). However, for us this year the Jessup experience began with the announcement of topics for legal issues by ILSA, at the Jessup Final Round in Washington DC, in April 2019. This Jessup season was therefore set in motion with the search for a competent team of students who could work as professionals.
Amongst a pool of mooting students who were committed in various academic and extracurricular activities, it was always a tough task to consider who might be fit as a Jessup participant.
After considering the interest and academic skills of a number of students and members of the mooting society at Pakistan College of Law, I selected two candidates as part of the team designated with the task of carrying out initial research on issues centering around the announcement of the topics. In this way, the first form of our Jessup team came into its nascent existence. We still had much to learn and more team members to consider for participation. Amongst a pool of mooting students who were committed in various academic and extracurricular activities, it was always a tough task to consider who might be fit as a Jessup participant. It was a task which required sustaining pressure; it demanded interpersonal skills and academic excellence, all at the same time. After vetting a number of students through advocacy trials, and after gauging their interest and dedication, I decided to put my and the institution’s trust in the hands of the following team of four: Fatima Khalid, Rai Salman, Raza Aziz and Rohan Sohail.
The second stage was writing memorial submissions for the Applicant and Respondent State in the Moot problem. Once again, the activity demanded patience and dedication as each argument was vetted and contrasted with its alternatives based on yet more detailed research. Perhaps more patience was required on my part as I endeavoured to teach and advise the team. However, by the time our team had formulated and drafted arguments in the form of memorials, the case had seeped deep into our team’s neural network. What lied ahead was now the most essential element of moot court advocacy: oral presentation.
In often stressful preparation times, it was a delight to see the team members helping and supporting each other not just in their respective tasks but ensuring that a peaceful and comfortable environment was maintained, and so our lunch breaks offered us a much needed recess.
Through the hours spent on sketching tables, mind-maps and writing arguments in layers, and then orally practising the delivery, the team had fully understood and adopted the art of advocacy.
Our teams at Pakistan College of Law have always excelled at presenting the best legal arguments, and delivering complex legal arguments is perhaps the more difficult task to endure. As a team advisor, I understood that my team had completely embraced the law – its delivery was the next challenge. I often communicated to my team that we could only do justice to the quality of our arguments if they were delivered with the same level of expertise in presentation. I therefore devised a method for the team to conceptualise the picture of their legal arguments. I asked them to breathe life into their arguments as living creatures; each limb of facts being connected with the core of law, and each core of law being in consonance with the complete portrait of the argument. What was evidently true was that our team had achieved an excellent grasp of structural integrity and conceptual clarity of all the legal arguments. Through the hours spent on sketching tables, mind-maps and writing arguments in layers, and then orally practising the delivery, the team had fully understood and adopted the art of advocacy.
Then, finally, came the Jessup Competition itself. It was just seven rounds in total, but it felt like a lifetime. The preliminary rounds were the initial testing stage, then came the quarter-final, semi-final and ultimately the final round. Each team we faced was as experienced as the next one; each round had its own story, and each judge had another approach to the case. More memorable was our preparation in the ‘Prep Rooms’ between rounds, in order to dissect the approach of the judges and keep catering to their expectations by aiming to bring a new angle with each round as we progressed. The announcement of our qualification to the next round came with joy and more pressure. We were told by our competitors that they have never seen a team so well prepared to answer every question more than adequately. It was encouraging to be appreciated by our competitors and for us it reflected the spirit of sportsmanship.
Finally, we were applauded as the qualifying team for the final round. This year’s final round was like none other as it was held at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Lahore Registry. We spent the entire night recalling our progress through all the stages while experiencing a range of emotions as we were told that we were to appear before justices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Lahore High Court. This was the most honourable and challenging part of the entire competition. We were watched and evaluated by an entire crowd of the country’s esteemed lawyers, but our training helped us overcome any feelings of nervousness. As the justices heard our legal arguments and asked us questions of facts and law, I sat watching the advocacy of our team, which was phenomenal.
With Fatima’s dedication, Salman’s hard work, Raza’s commitment, Rohan’s persistence and our unified strength of mind and character, we gained something worthy in the Jessup experience this year.
It was a moment of honour, after all the hard work, to be declared the Champions of the Jessup Competition, 2020. It was also very pleasing to have won the Best Memorial Award.
Ours was the best team and one of a kind. The past few months were filled with straits and calm waters, but we triumphed through the competition with something worth remembering. With Fatima’s dedication, Salman’s hard work, Raza’s commitment, Rohan’s persistence and our unified strength of mind and character, we gained something worthy in the Jessup experience this year. We learnt not only working with law, but also with people, and I hope the future brings similar and better joys.
Amna Riaz Ali lectures in Public International Law at Pakistan College of Law and is Head of the Moot Court Society.