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Does NLS Bangalore have a secret mooting sauce that won Jessup & Lachs?

MPL 4: The home of Indian mooting
MPL 4: The home of Indian mooting

NLSIU Bangalore has broken nearly all records this Mooting Premier League (MPL) 4 sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills.

First it won the world rounds of the Manfred Lachs Space Moot in October for the second time in three years.

And now it has even trumped that by bringing back to Bangalore the winner’s trophy from the Philip C Jessup International Law Moot in Washington after 14 years.

The college is all but guaranteed a run-away victory this MPL season with more than 300 points in the rankings, dominating this year like last year following a two-year rule of Nalsar Hyderabad rule in the first MPL seasons.

This season NLS has worked hard for its position, with laurels such as the Stetson regional win, Oxford media moot national best speaker, and a rank among the best hundred at the Vis Vienna’s international rounds, as well as a raft of domestic moot wins. Even strong newcomer NLU Delhi, which made it into the last 20 at Jessup, has not been able to seriously worry NLSIU’s MPL lead at any point this season.

Legally India talked to moot court society (MCS) convenor Dheer Bhatnagar for the law school’s secret mooting sauce this year.

“I guess it’s the entire system that comes together at NLS,” says Bhatnagar, who had also participated in Manfred Lachs in 2011. In particular he cites administrative support, the culture of mooting, and the type of training.

First things first

“Moots like Jessup are so intensive, that you don’t want [the team] to worry about funding,” explains Bhatnagar, adding that Sunday’s Jessup-winning team received “very very substantial” funding from the school administration.

While the school covers every mooting team’s stationery costs up to a limit of Rs 5,500, assistance beyond the initial limit is extended on a case by case basis, in a need-based system and subject to other funding-avenues open to teams in each case.

The disbursal of funds is “quick and uncomplicated”, “seldom-refused”, and often doesn’t require vetting by the MCS, says Bhatnagar.

Purse strings are loose at the college even for flying down judges for rounds to select teams that will represent NLS at various moots. 16 judges, involving the law school’s alumni as well as other law firm partners and legal experts, are flown down each year from Delhi, Chandigarh and other cities.

Legally India reported that NLSIU was granted more than Rs 8 crore from central and state coffers last year.

Alibis

Some incentives to moot at NLS, beyond the chance for fame and glory are manyfold. International mooters get two project writing exemptions and 20 per cent off the attendance requirement per trimester (sometimes 25 per cent in lieu of some marks); and domestic mooters gets one exemption and 15 per cent off attendance, project extensions and attendance bonuses to the MCS, for example.

“The rules are very very flexible. The college gives you at least one, sometimes two opportunities to take a [missed] exam [due to a moot] on another date,” Bhatanagar adds.

Grill drill

“What stands out for NLS as well is that most students have to go through this rigorous process at the university level: it is a difficult problem which is set for the students, there isn’t a lot of time to prepare, they have to face two separate benches in a matter of two days to even get their [mooting] ranks in college,” notes Bhatnagar on the internal selections rounds.

NLSIU follows a two-pronged internal selection process comprising of “class rounds” and “university rounds” to assign moots to teams from a pre-ranked moots’ list. The list followed for the last few years ranks Jessup, Vis Vienna, Vis East, Manfred Lachs, the Oxford Media Moot, and then domestic moots, in that order.

In class-rounds students compete within their batches, arguing a problem based on an area of law that has already been part of their curriculum.

In university rounds, class round finalists from all batches, shuffled into various teams, play for moots on the final rank list – the moot problem can be based on any area of law.

“The university round problem is usually on domestic law, although we do require students to argue on questions of common law as well. But the basic purpose of university rounds is to test your general advocacy skills: how well can you prepare your memorial, how do you get authorities from outside, how do you mix authorities, how do you cite, how do you answer a judge […],” says Bhatnagar.

Getting their back

“The number of practice oral rounds [the team] had is one of the main reasons [this year’s] Jessup [team] did so well,” Bhatnagar remarks, adding: “There are [usually] a lot of students who jump in to take the practice oral rounds [for various moots] all the time.”

Contrary to general perception, there is no official mentorship system to aid mooters at NLS, however there are also no weak ends to the “administrative support” the MCS provides to teams by connecting them to the law school’s alumni mooting network.

“Our role is to facilitate and guide them. The administration is also very receptive to our problems and helps us a lot to get things working,” says Bhatnagar commenting on how the MCS plays a bigger role for junior teams rather than senior ones such as this year’s Jessup winners, all of whom but one were final year students.

The team that won Manfred Lachs last year comprised entirely of third year students who had never studied space law before, says Bhatnagar, and the MCS therefore appointed formal mentors.

By contrast, second-time Jessup-participant and former MCS convenor Raag Yadava was able to draw upon his previous alumni contacts and strategies, which “played a major role in determining [the present victory]”, according to Bhatnagar.

International law firm Herbert Smith is sponsoring the Mooting Premier League (MPL) and will contribute a prize pool of Rs 60,000 for the top three winning colleges.

Mooting Premier League 4 season standings

For more information please refer to the MPL 4 rulebook.

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