Previous Board Members:
Anna Maria Urbanova
Anna Maria Urbanova
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Dr. Luca Pantaleo gives us an insight on the preparation and challenges faced by the Hague University team for the Competition.
ILSA Journal: What was your part in the Moot Court?
Dr. Pantaleo: I was the coach. In my capacity as a coach I have followed the student’s work and progress throughout the process of the competition. And the competition, for those who don’t know the rules, is structured in this way – a case is published in September by the Moot Court Society, usually always on September the 1st. They are very strict about these deadlines. And then the first part of the competition is to prepare a written submission to be sent by a fixed deadline which is usually between November 20th and December 13th, so by late November essentially. The writing stage is a relatively short time and short effort because it doesn’t take more than the final two weeks of this first stage. This is because the beginning is really about researching. The case itself is composed of usually three questions. It’s a preliminary ruling and these three questions are issues which cover a wide variety of law problems. Following this, there is a lot of substantial research and legal analysis to be carried out. And then the writing of the written submissions combines legal analysis and advising and a bit of legal representation if you’d like because then you also have to submit written submissions for both parties of this dispute, the applicant and the defendant. So obviously in one case you have to take into consideration the interest of the applicant and in the other the interest of the defendant.
ILSA Journal: Could you tell us about the second stage of the tournament and which one would you say was more challenging for the team?
Dr. Pantaleo: The second stage is the oral part. If you qualify of course, which is not to be taken for granted. There are only 4 finals, 12 teams per final, so 48 teams qualify for the regional finals. You are then assigned to one of the finals and have to prepare oral pleadings which are based on the written submissions but you can also add new arguments. This phase is very different to the first stage of written submissions. It is really about practicing and oral advocacy and representation skills.
ILSA Journal: Which phase would you describe as the more challenging?
Dr. Pantaleo: Which one is the more challenging – What I have learned from my experience, I am now in my second year as a coach at this university, is that the teams stand stronger on the second part of the competition, as a rule. That’s mostly because most of our opponents in the regional finals are Master students while we are Bachelor students essentially. And for Master students the research and legal analysis part – they have stronger legal foundational knowledge so to speak. So they are able to go more deeply into the subject while you are provided as students a lot of opportunities to improve your oral advocacy skills and that pays off in the second stage of the competition. So I think the hardest is definitely the first one.
ILSA Journal: What was the case of the competition about?
Dr. Pantaleo: There were three overall topics and three questions asked by the referring court, each of which was heavily focused on one EU law problem. The first was public procurement law, the second was access to justice, the third was EU sanctions.
ILSA Journal: What were the main challenges as a coach when selecting the team?
Dr. Pantaleo: It was very hard. Probably because of last year’s successful participation we had a lot more applications than the previous year so we really had to make a selection. I can safely affirm that we were almost in the position to put two teams together essentially. So 8 very strong candidates. And then the selection between those 8 was really extremely hard.
ILSA Journal: What were the main challenges when working with the team?
Dr. Pantaleo: Let’s put it this way. There are two ways of approaching the role of a coach. There is a hand-on and a hands-off approach. Both approaches need to be used at different stages of the process and perhaps the most challenging part is to figure out when the hands-on approach is needed and when the hands-off approach is needed. I think we managed relatively well this year but that’s probably the biggest issue.
ILSA Journal: What did you think of your team’s progress?
Dr. Pantaleo: It was a gradual but constant progress with a peak that has been reached in the last two weeks. But it’s always like this. During the last two weeks of preparation the team always experiences an explosion in a way. It was a constant line, gradually to the top essentially but then there was a really big improvement in the very end.
ILSA Journal: What do you think makes students keep motivated for such a long period of time?
Dr. Pantaleo: I think part of that is a coach’s job, to keep the motivation high. And there are ups and downs, continuously. There is a rejection phase at some point which is usually in the last couple of weeks, so that has to be managed carefully. But probably the reward, so what is at the end of this, is satisfactory enough for them to stay motivated.
ILSA Journal: Do you have any recommendations for students who would like to participate in a moot court in the future?
Dr. Pantaleo: A recommendation that I would want to give to students who are interested in this – if you have an interest in EU law and are interested in mooting this is the most exciting experience that you will do. And although it’s hard it is really rewarding, so it’s worth the effort.
This interview has been edited for clarity.