Grit and teamwork: NUS Law’s keys to victory at the Herbert Smith Freehills Competition Law Moot 2022

Moot competitions provide a platform for law students to put into practice what they learn in the classroom and hone their advocacy skills in trying to solve real challenges. International moot competitions, in particular, form an integral part of developing globally-oriented lawyers at NUS Law.

One such competition is the annual Herbert Smith Freehills Competition Law Moot, which NUS Law undergrads first participated in, and won, in 2015. The competition has grown in size over the years, with participation almost doubling to 40 applications from top law schools around the world in 2022. 

Despite intense competition from the Jindal Global Law School, Utrecht University Law School, Hong Kong University (HKU) Law School, Mumbai University and the Dickson Poon School of Law from King’s College London, NUS Law once again emerged victorious at the competition.

The winning team, sponsored by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS), comprised of students Stanley Woo and Samuel Ye from the Class of 2022, and Brandon Wong and Zhong Tianyu from the Class of 2023.

Team coach, Associate Professor Burton Ong, attributed their success to three key factors: A secure foundational knowledge of the underlying legal principles and economic concepts,  with every team member having completed the competition law and policy module at NUS Law School; ready access to a network of helpful legal experts and enthusiastic alumni; and all-round support from faculty and staff members, including our librarians and technology support assistants.

Can you share with us the team's experience in preparing for the competition?

Prof Ong: I met the students once a week from January to April to discuss their research for the moot problem and test out their legal arguments for each side. It was also an interesting learning experience because I was previously unfamiliar with some of the European law issues the team had to grapple with as part of their preparations for this competition.

What stood out to you most in terms of the team’s preparedness and determination to win?

Prof Ong: Two things about the performance of this team left a strong impression on me: Their resilience (even when stricken by COVID-19!), and their enthusiasm in embracing offers of assistance from senior alumni and other subject matter experts who readily supported the team over six months of preparation.

How important are such moot competitions in enriching a student’s learning, and even preparing them for life after the classroom?

Prof Ong: Moot competitions offer students an extremely unique learning experience outside of the conventional classroom setting. While they work on a problem modelled closely after current legal or policy controversies, they are given opportunities to apply what they have learnt to unchartered areas of law and to learn from competition law experts who offer them insights and perspectives that are beyond their textbooks. Beyond that, I would say that the diverse learning experiences of participating in moots like this mimic the kind of “lessons” they will encounter after they graduate from our classrooms. First, good teachers can be found everywhere - you just need to embrace the opportunities you are given to learn from them. Second, persuading your audience is not always about having the best substantive arguments, but also about being able to present your arguments in a compelling way that connects with those you are trying to convince. Last but not least, success is achieved not just through individual determination and discipline, but also requires collaborative effort and a shared vision.

Adding to their achievements at the 2022 Herbert Smith Freehills Competition Law Moot was having the team’s written memorial rank second in the competition, and team member Brandon Wong receiving a Certificate of Achievement for his outstanding advocacy skills.

How would you sum up your experience taking part in this competition?

Brandon: The moot competition was an immensely enriching educational experience which provided a unique dimension to my studies at NUS Law. The weekly team discussions, as well as the practice sessions with experts and senior alumni, stretched my abilities in various aspects, sharpening my legal analysis and oral advocacy skills. Overall, the experience will be hard to forget, as it was a collection of “firsts” for me: My first time auditioning for an international moot competition, first trip to Europe, and first interaction with foreign lawyers and law students.

Did you and your team feel well-prepared, after six months of intense research and practice?

Brandon: I did feel that our team was tangibly well-prepared due to the copious amount of time we spent preparing for the moot. Nevertheless, there were some nerves during the knock-out rounds, knowing we were up against graduate law students who were much more familiar and even specialised in European competition law, and especially when we faced opponents we had lost to in the past, such as the formidable team from HKU. There was always a sense of pride when, in the face of intense questioning by the judges, we were able to defend our arguments and point out the flaws in our opponents’ arguments with poise. Each team member – Stanley, Samuel, Tianyu and myself – gave our peak performance even though we struggled with the time-zone difference in London!

What does attaining the Certificate of Achievement for outstanding advocacy skills mean to you?

Brandon: Receiving an honourable mention for my advocacy skills is a significant personal achievement which I will be proud of for many years to come. Law students will relate to me when I say that being in law school, where one is surrounded by naturally gifted speakers, can make one insecure about one’s speaking abilities. Participating in this moot competition forced me to confront the flaws of my speaking abilities and find confidence in my strengths. With the support of Prof Ong, the senior alumni and my teammates, the hours spent practicing the delivery of my oral arguments thankfully materialised into this reward.