Opening Statements

@Mootcourt: First-Ever Twitter Moot Court Competition

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For lawyers not used to being told to watch their word count, the world’s first Twitter moot court competition might prove to be a Herculean exercise in restraint. But with social media becoming the communications method of choice for many, the West Coast Environ mental Law Group decided its Twitter Moot was a natural evolution for the next generation of lawyers.

“We’re hoping their interest [in environmental law] might be piqued, and they might be drawn to a career as a public interest lawyer working toward change in the area,” says Jessica Clogg, WCEL executive director, about the Twitter competition.

The Vancouver-based WCEL invited students from five Canadian law schools to participate in the one-day online competition that, at press time, was slated for late February.

For the competition, students represented each side in the appeal of West Moberly First Nations v. British Columbia, an actual appellate case that involved an aboriginal community’s fight to protect its land against coal mining.

While appellate arguments are not usually confined to 140 characters, in this case each Twitter team had to succinctly present its side and answer questions from judges in the form of tweets in less than 15 minutes.

Nikki Petersen, a second-year at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, says arguing the case via Twitter presented some unique challenges, particularly since she and her teammate were in different cities. “We [had] to learn or invent abbreviations and hashtags—not your typical moot preparation,” Petersen says. “We [had] to make our point quickly while still using formal language and address.”

Organizers of the Twitter moot court competition hope that the event is more than simply a learning experience for the participants. They see it as an educational opportunity for the broader online community.

“It will be interesting to see how it comes together,” says WCEL staff lawyer Andrew Gage, who came up with the concept. “There’s been a lot of interest, so we hope we can show this was a worthwhile event that should be repeated, and that having these types of discussions on Twitter is a good thing.”

Follow the competition on Twitter with the hashtag #twtmoot.

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