When people talk about studying law in Hong Kong, the first school to come to mind is the University of Hong Kong (HKU). It has the longest history and most impressive alumni of all the universities in the city. But in recent years, a relatively new school of law has shown its ability in international moot court competitions, demonstrating that it is also capable of producing high-flying legal eagles.
In 2011, students from City University of Hong Kong's (CityU) School of Law were the biggest winners in moot court competitions. The university trumped HKU and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in the Hong Kong regional round of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition and were the champions in the 2nd International ADR Mooting Competition. Together, these wins represented the school's best-ever performance.
Assistant Professor Rajesh Sharma, who is also mooting director of CityU, is the man widely credited for surpassing previous limits. "I am really pleased with our students. [Their winning performances] show that the quality of teaching and learning is as good here as anywhere in the world," he says.
Speaking of his secrets in training students, Sharma confides that a winning formula is a simple one of hard work and self-confidence. "There is no shortcut to success, you have to work and work. The preparation for a moot competition is long and tough. When students despair, I inspire them with the success stories of alumni. I make them believe that they can do it," Sharma adds.
The time and effort that CityU students spend on the competition is remarkable. Sharma recalls that once, during a preparation session, the team was still going strong at four in the morning. "At the time, a young man was furiously attacking the case of a female teammate. The girl was exhausted but defended her case brilliantly. I was deeply impressed with the persistence and quality of both performers," he says.
Maintaining inspiration and confidence among students is one of Sharma's key duties. "I shared books and movies [with the students] on how people overcome great difficulties. I find the movie The King's Speech particularly inspiring. We watched it together."
As a result of the competitions, Sharma has developed a tight bond with his students. "[Being empathetic] is important when training a team. You have to feel their happiness and sorrow," he says.
Before coming to CityU in 1995, Sharma was a practicing lawyer in India. He relates that as a lawyer, the satisfaction of winning a case was great but not as significant as helping to prepare youngsters for their profession. "As a lawyer, relationships with clients are short-term. Win or lose, we move on. As a professor, it is very satisfying to share what I know and ready youngsters for the legal profession. The bond with students is long-term," he adds.
Jessica Chow Yat-sau, juries doctor Year Three student and winner of the International ADR Mooting Competition, says Sharma made a huge contribution in helping the mooting team to get ready. "He tried to give us a real experience of speaking in court by challenging us with various questions. He also employed professional arbitrators to train us," she says.
Hui Man-hei, who is looking forward to doing her Postgraduate Certificate in Laws this year, was on the team that defeated HKU and CUHK in the Hong Kong regional round of this year's Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. She thinks her achievement has made a statement.
"We have a point to prove which is that CityU students can perform at a high level.
The success of the school is determined not by name but by how hard the students work," Hui adds.
She too was grateful for Sharma's support. "He helped us fight for resources. To prepare for competition, we needed to print out a huge amount of information, with which Professor Sharma helped. He also arranged for the school to sponsor travel and accommodation expenses when we competed overseas. Without him, the competitions would not have run as smoothly," she says.