Jack Davies bottom left, writes an article outlining his experience at the recent Willem C Vis Moot Competition in Vienna.
In March this year, I Jack Davies, along with three other students — Taylor Gray, Reuel Baptista and Jovana Nedeljkov — had the pleasure of being sponsored by Bankside Chambers to represent the University of Auckland at the Willem C Vis Commercial Arbitration Moot, held in Vienna, Austria. The University of Auckland has, for the last two years, put in stellar performances at the Moot. This year was no different. The team set a new record for the University, placing third out of 311 teams. Teams from across the globe, from all continents other than Antarctica, participated in the Moot.
Since its inception in 1994, the Moot has attracted over 300 law schools from across the world to compete in what is one of the world’s largest mooting competitions. The object of the Moot is to foster study in the areas of international commercial and arbitration laws, and to encourage the settlement of business disputes by arbitration. To this end, the problem for the Moot is always based on an international sales transaction subjected to the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG).
Setting a new record was no mean feat. The team put in months of preparation before travelling to Europe. This preparation involved the consideration of issues in the problem, the drafting of two 50-page written memorials, and then many oral practices while we were still in New Zealand. As such, the financial assistance offered by Bankside was crucial to our performance. The funding allowed us to spend time on research and preparation rather than having to seek sponsorship from a variety of benefactors. Once in Europe, we also competed in pre-Moot competitions at the London School of Economics (where we placed first), at Heidelberg University (where we placed first), at the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris (where we placed second) and at Eotvos Lorand University of Sciences in Budapest. We also received assistance from our coaches, Thom Clark and Nikolai Santamaria.
At the Vis Moot, we won all four of our preliminary round moots. These were against Georgetown University (USA), the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), the University of Hannover (Germany) and Allameh Tabatabai University (Iran). We then progressed through the knockout rounds, beating four other universities before finally being beaten by the University of Buenos Aires in the semi-finals, the team which went on eventually to win the competition. The teams that fell to Auckland in the knockout rounds were the University of Munich (Germany), the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong), Columbia University (USA) and the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple (UK). Taylor and I, during the knockout rounds, mooted four times in one day. It was very exhausting but an opportunity I would never have missed. We came up against some excellent young advocates, and had the chance to showcase our skills in front of some of the world’s most esteemed arbitrators.
Obviously, the Moot was a great success for the team and the University, but it was excellent for my own personal development as well. Taylor and I both received honourable mentions for our oral performances in Vienna, so it was great to be recognised on an individual level.
I think all members of the team gained a lot from the experience. I certainly did. I gained a lot of confidence in my oral advocacy, as well as learning a lot about “thinking on my feet”. I also learnt a lot about the two areas of law that the Moot focuses on: the CISG and international commercial arbitration. The Moot problem always tries to include topical issues in the international arena and this year was no different. We learnt a lot about the use of discovery procedures in international arbitration as well as the recovery of legal fees, incurred in national courts, as damages through a subsequent arbitration procedure. We also examined whether the disgorgement of profits is a remedy available under the CISG, a Convention which has traditionally been seen as geared towards the remedies of specific performance and compensation for loss.
A fascinating aspect from my perspective was witnessing the differences in approach employed by the common and civil law arbitrators respectively. Not only were there preferences that one might expect (the common law arbitrators preferring the citation of case law; the civil law arbitrators, academic texts), but also preferences regarding the style of advocacy employed. It was absolutely fascinating to be judged by arbitrators from a wide variety of jurisdictions — that experience is one that will stay with me for a long time.
The Moot was also an excellent way to employ skills that I gained through clerking for David AR Williams QC of Bankside. Having worked on arbitration files in the office environment, I found it fulfilling to utilise those skills in a setting where oral, not just written advocacy, is required. The combination of these two experiences has encouraged me to continue working in the international arbitration field in the future.
While I am unable to participate in the Moot again, having spoken in the knockout rounds, I have every confidence that the University will continue to send stronger and stronger teams every year. The Moot really is a very special competition, and I appreciate every ounce of support from Bankside Chambers.