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Mooting Stories: 2003 Vis Vienna victor Mithun Thanks on walking the walk

Viennese champions: Joyjyoti Misra, Mithun Thanks, Sidharth Sharma (l. to r.)
Viennese champions: Joyjyoti Misra, Mithun Thanks, Sidharth Sharma (l. to r.)
In 2003 Indian mooting reached new heights as a young team from NUJS Kolkata won the prestigious Willem C Vis Moot at Vienna. NUJS was a nascent law school then and Mithun V Thanks helps us recollect old memories as he shares thoughts on the role of mooting in building character and confidence.

MPL: You were the first (and to date the only) Indian team to win the Vis Vienna Moot in 2003. How big was mooting in India at that time? Did you feel that you were 'world champions' after you won the moot?

Mithun V Thanks: Actually, the feeling did not sink in immediately after we won the moot. We were a bunch of three guys who didn’t have a copy of Redfern & Hunter. We went with just one suit, thinking that we would come back early. While we were in the flight on our way back, we realized that it was incredible feeling.

Mooting was quite big at that time, especially in NUJS. It was always recognised as an activity which was important to keep everyone’s morale going. It was helpful to have mooted. The year before I went to Vienna I did Jessup, and before that I was successful at the Bar Council Moot. So, there was some experience before doing Vienna.

MPL: How were you selected for the moot?

Thanks: I have always maintained that the intra rounds are the most difficult ones to crack as we were up against some competitive and extremely smart mooters. We had three rounds: an intra batch rounds, a constitutional law round and an international law round. The rank list was made based on the average score of all the rounds and we had speakers and researchers ranked separately.

We were lucky to have practising advocates from Kolkata, a lot of whom were NLS Bangalore alumni, to judge our intra rounds. I must say that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to these people for spending time with us in the initial years. I was from the first batch of NUJS and these guys helped us a lot.

During that particular year Joyjyoti Misra was ranked first, Indranath Bishnu was ranked second, I was ranked third and Deepto Roy was fourth. Joyjyoti picked Vienna, Indranath picked Jessup and since I was the third, I took Vienna. Our researcher was Siddharth Sharma.

MPL: How did you prepare for the moot?

Thanks: It was a complete blessing for us as the organizers of the moot gave us access to a resource base known as Kluwer Arbitration. That was an extremely invaluable resource. At that point of time NUJS was a developing university only in its third year and the NUJS Library was a work in progress. There was no subject called International Commercial Arbitration in law school.

As I mentioned earlier, we did not have Redfern & Hunter which the current set of mooters use. Most of our research took place at the Indian Law Institute, Delhi. I must confess that Sid and Joy were the fulcrum in getting all the research done. I was running around to get sponsorships which were extremely difficult at that time. Finally, we were sponsored by ITC and Bodhraj Sawhney Trust, along with senior advocates Gopal Subramaniam, Fali Nariman and S Ganesh.

Our registration fees were paid by  an Austrian law firm Salpius & Partners, thanks to the good offices of Professor Eric E Bergsten, the administrator of the Vis Moot. We also had assistance from Mr Arun Berry, an NUJS parent, who was the first one in fact to extend monetary support before others came on board.

MPL: Could you tell us a bit about your career after law school?

Thanks: After NUJS, I joined Luthra & Luthra Law Offices Mumbai and worked for two years up until 2007. Then I joined Herbert Smith London as a lateral associate. I returned back to India in November 2009 for personal reasons. Since then, I have been working as a senior associate at JSA Mumbai.

Joyjyoti is right now a senior associate at Khaitan Delhi and Siddharth is legal counsel with the Tata Group.

MPL: Do you think mooting at law school has helped you in your career?

Thanks: As far as I am concerned it has been a tremendous help. It is very wrong to look at mooting as an exercise to build your CV. Instead, mooting is an activity which gives you confidence to walk the talk.

At the end of the day it is only you that matters. When you are standing there in front of the judge, you can’t look at your team mates and ask for help. Of course it’s a team effort but mooting helps you to think on your feet. It helps you build character, it gives you lot of confidence and it’s a lot of fun.

MPL: Do you regularly judge moots? If yes, which are the moots that you have adjudged in the recent past?

Thanks: Before I left India I have judged the NUJS Intra rounds and the Vienna challengers at Nalsar. When I was with Herbert Smith I helped them to connect with NUJS and set up the NUJS Herbert Smith Moot which I have been regularly judging. While in Mumbai I have also judged the DM Harish Moot organized by GLC.

MPL: What is your most cherished memory of mooting at law school?

Thanks: My most cherished memory is the fact that that our win gave people a lot of confidence. In the sense, people started saying that when these regular people could do it so can we. That was very gratifying as we were from the first batch of NUJS and we set the ball rolling. We were able to do what little we could.

Finally, I know that these days that there are so many opportunities that are available to students while compared to our time. I would not consider mooting as an extra-curricular activity but as a co-curricular activity which helps to build character. You may not feel the difference when you are mooting but later I am sure you will see the difference.

I would encourage people to continue mooting!

The MPL 2 was sponsored by Allen & Overy.

Mooting Premier League 2 season standings

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