International Court of Justice: Advocate Preparation

The role of acting as an advocate in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) simulation at the American Model United Nations (AMUN) Conference is unique in a variety of ways. Even more than other positions, most of an advocate’s work must be complete before arriving at Conference. Advocates prepare written memorials and oral arguments about cases before the ICJ–both of these requirements mean lots of practice and preparation. Additionally, an advocate’s time spent in the ICJ simulation is only a small portion of Conference hours, so an advocate must have an additional role to fill at Conference. An advocate’s pre-Conference work has a short amount of time to shine through during oral arguments.

If you’re an advocate, you should begin to prepare as soon as you know your assignment. The best place to start is the International Court of Justice section of the current year’s AMUN handbook. This page includes general information about the simulation as well as the background briefs for each case. Whether you have participated in an ICJ simulation before or not, we recommend reviewing the AMUN handbook as well as reading the background brief for the case your country is assigned. While it is tough to describe the ICJ simulation prior to participation, the handbook serves as a baseline of knowledge for what will occur throughout the simulation.

Prior to Conference, advocates are tasked with writing a Memorial, an example of which is located on the ICJ page of the AMUN website. The Memorial  provides the opposing country’s advocate team and the justices of the court with a baseline for the arguments you intend to present in front of the court. This is the primary source of preparation that both justices and opposing advocates will have in relation to your arguments, so timeliness is essential. Memorials are due on 25 October, and it’s necessary that they are turned in on time. In order to write your Memorial, you will need to conduct adequate background research of the facts and potential oral arguments and distill that information into written form. This is a great way to kickstart your research and begin solidifying your plans for your oral arguments in front of the court at Conference.

One key element to making a strong legal argument is to know the other side’s argument as well as, if not better, than your own. By approaching your case from the opposing side, you can clearly see where there are holes in your logic as well as anticipate any arguments you may need to rebut. If you do not have the Memorial from the opposing country for the purposes of the ICJ simulation, you may have to do independent research to prepare these arguments.

A common way to prepare an argument is to tell a story with your facts and the interpretation of the law you believe the court should use in making its decision. Using a story can aid the justices in understanding and relating to the case even when the facts of the case or the arguments you are making are complex or difficult to understand. If you choose to use a story or other device, it shouldn’t be drawn out and should simply be used as an aid to the arguments you want to make.

It is imperative to think about potential questions the justices may ask. When you present in front of the ICJ Justices, you will generally have 10 to 20 minutes to present your case, and you will be given, at a minimum, 5 uninterrupted minutes to speak. Following that, the justices may choose to open up your remaining time for questions. Because of this rule, much of your time in front of the justices will be spent answering their questions, and your preparedness will show the justices if you have gone over some of these potential questions. You should feel comfortable telling the justices that you do not know the answer to the question they are asking as there is no way for you to anticipate 100% of their questions.

When presenting your case, your explanation of the case should be kept brief so you have sufficient time to present your arguments, but it should also be detailed enough t for someone with no knowledge of the case to understand. Your audience, the justices, arrive with varying degrees of familiarity with the cases.

If you have any questions about the simulation or your preparations as an advocate, send an email to, and the ICJ staff will get back to you as soon as possible.

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