The Common Law Section is set to be the first Canadian university to harness the power of virtual reality to simulate a trial, giving students technical competence that will be required in the future as the courtroom moves online.
Background: what is a moot trial?
In moot competitions, teams of students prepare written submissions on a legal point and then argue their case in front of a panel of judges. Essentially, it is a simulated trial to help create the feeling of being in the courtroom. Normally, these simulations are held in real courtrooms, but the COVID-19 pandemic halted that.
Why the metaverse?
Society is going to be impacted by this technology as more people, businesses, etc. move online. Crime will occur in the metaverse. Examples can include intellectual property theft to situations of workplace safety, where there could be workplace harassment during a virtual meeting. Understanding the metaverse and being a part of it is a technical competence that is going to be required for future lawyers.
uOttawa Tech Fellows: driving the metaverse initiative
Ritesh Kotak, a third-year Juris Doctor student, is one of the drivers behind the Faculty’s push to digitalize academic operations at the Common Law Section. Kotak, alongside Tech Fellows Ayushi Dave and Ryan Mosoff, recently created an online platform to help small businesses combat cyber breaches.
“This has been about six months in the making and includes everything you can imagine from customizing a courtroom to dealing with developers and programmers, to acquiring the hardware, doing training, and getting students excited. The metaverse is here to stay so, from an educational perspective and a judicial perspective, there’s a lot of merit to using it.”
How does it differ from Zoom?
“With VR, it actually physically feels like you're in the same room with everybody. The students are going to feel like they’re sitting at their table; when a judge looks at you, it feels like they're looking at you right; when somebody hands you a paper it feels like something was handed to you. The whole idea behind it is how do we enhance the student experience by leveraging the technology,” Ritesh explains.
Professor Anthony Daimsis, Director of Common Law Section’s mooting program: “This is yet another example of how uOttawa’s mooting program continues to lead and innovate. We have many students who are hungry to sharpen their advocacy skills. I’m very proud of what is now a long list of outstanding students who have become exceptional members of our profession.”
Ron LeClair, of LeClair and Associates, is the law firm providing funding for the Faculty’s metaverse project through to 2026: “We are grateful for the opportunity to support the University of Ottawa, the creators and hosts of the first ever virtual reality moot. It is exciting to help law students – our future colleagues – explore innovative ways to promote access to justice for everyone.”
Preliminary rounds will be held virtually on Zoom on Saturday, March 19, where participants will argue their case in front of three judges. Two appellants and two respondents will be selected for the final, to be held in the metaverse on Saturday, March 26. Media can watch the moot metaverse via from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EST.
- Ian Binnie, retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
- Justice Jodie-Lynn Waddilove, Ontario Court of Justice
- Mr. Ron LeClair, Principal of LeClair and Associates