11 February 2008

The Indonesian National Rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition 2008

Well, another year and another National Round of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot competition has passed, at least for Indonesia. This year's Winner (University of Indonesia) and Runner Up (Parahyangan Catholic University) will be heading to Washington D.C. for the International Rounds of the Competition in the early part of April 2008. Good luck to both teams!

The point of this blog entry is to make a few comments about the competition, particularly the quality of the participants and judges, as well as the future.

The quality of the participants improves each year and the standard of the competition as a consequence gets considerably higher and more competitive. For example to progress to the semi-finals in the early years teams could advance with a record of 3 wins against 1 loss in the 4 preliminary rounds. However, as this year's competition shows securing one of the 4 semi-final slots with a 4 wins against 0 losses record is no guarantee of progressing. There were 7 teams in this year's competition with a record of 4 and 0 in the preliminary rounds. This meant there were quite a lot of disappointed teams not progressing to the semi-finals or final.

The rapid improvement in the quality of the participants is important, particularly when one considers there is a need for highly qualified and competent international law advocates in Indonesia. The future looks much brighter with the knowledge that there are students coming through the ranks that will be able to fill that void and fill it well.

However, another interesting point is that the quality of the judges volunteering their weekends to judge the competition is also improving every year. This is critical in not only the development of the competition but also in the development of the quality of the written and oral submissions or pleadings of the competitors. The questioning in this year's competition required competitors to not only have a basic understanding of international law, but challenged them to prove that they possessed a detailed knowledge of not only the facts of the case but had an exceptional command of the prevailing law and its application.

The future of the National Rounds requires more teams to become involved and this will require not only a good deal of marketing from the competition convenors (who are all volunteers) but the vision of the law faculties or schools themselves in seeing and understanding the value of competition for their students. Simply, moot court competitions are an excellent way to develop real-world legal practice skills.

This year's competition saw 20 law schools competing and 7 or so observers (law schools that come to watch and learn what the competition is about without participating in the actual competition proper). This is a small number, albeit an improvement on the numbers of years past. However, when one considers that there are some 227 law schools / faculties throughout Indonesia, then 20 does not seem like a significant number.

Indonesia is a vast archipelagic nation and the tyranny of distance between the outer-lying provinces and Jakarta where the competition is held is dramatic even in this era of low-cost airlines (of which Indonesia has many -- some of questionable safety)...Hence the future for the Indonesian National Round will also need some vision from the convenors of the competition. Perhaps an East and West Region where the champions of each region progress to the international rounds. In this way teams that want to participate but cannot because of travel costs or distance might be able to travel to a regional centre much closer to them in order to participate.

Anyway, there is a need for serious thought and vision in the development of the National Rounds and the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition in Indonesia going forward.

The signs look good and hopefully the reality will be even better.

Good luck!

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