On February 21, five teams of university law students from across Canada faced off for the appeal of a decision. However, these students from Dalhousie University, UBC, Osgoode Hall, the University of Victoria and the University of Ottawa did not even have to leave their campuses in order to meet. They rose to the challenge of conducting this experiment entirely through short messages via the social network Twitter.
Yana Banzen and Kowlasar Misir, both in their third year of common law at the University of Ottawa, had the chance to take part in this project set up by the organization West Coast Environmental Law.
“Moot courts are simulated court hearings where you present your case in front of the judges and they ask questions. It’s a normal part of law programs,” Kowlasar explained.
“The case we worked on is an actual appeal in which we represented the Treaty 8 Nations of Alberta,” Yana added. As the project website explains, “The BC Court of Appeal suspended a permit allowing First Coal Corporation to explore for coal in the habitat of a threatened caribou herd.”
Above and beyond all the potential that the development of such legal practices could hold for students and professionals, the preparation process alone was an invaluable source of learning for Yana and Kowlasar.
“Since Twitter messages cannot exceed 140 characters in length, it’s crucial to be both brief and accurate. You have to think really carefully about what you want to say and how you are going to say it,” recounted Kowlasar. “On top of that, we had no access to the non-verbal communication of our opponents and the three judges. It was quite a challenge,” Yana added.
These two future lawyers recommend the experience to all their classmates. Although they did not, unfortunately, win this case, they hope to take part again next year if the exercise is repeated.
For further information on this first moot court on Twitter, please visit the West Coast Environmental Law website or look for #twtmoot on Twitter.
If you know a student who has done something interesting and who would be willing to share his or her story with the University community, please contact Nadia Gervais, E-Communications Officer.