By Charles Haszler
I remember the day clearly. A chat window popped up on Facebook, and before I knew it I had been convinced by a fellow student to apply for the 2016 Willem C. Vis team. I cobbled together a cover letter, tried not to look too closely at the numbers on my academic transcript, and sent my application off to Magda Karagiannakis, La Trobe’s resident mooting coach. Having competed in a couple of La Trobe’s internal competitions, I had an idea that mooting could be a pretty gruelling task. What came next took me totally by surprise.
The Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot is a competition which takes place at the end of March each year in Vienna. The Vis East Moot is its sister competition, and takes place two weeks earlier in Hong Kong. The problem involves a dispute between parties to a contract for the international sale of goods. The parties have agreed that in the event of a dispute, they will appoint a panel of arbitrators to hear their claims and resolve their problems. Sounds fairly simple?
Preparation for the Vis started three days after Semester 2 exams finished. The original team of 8 met in the moot court and realised quickly we had almost no idea what was going on. The problem we had been presented with was about 75 pages long. The first task was learning that back to front. Then the real work began. Our first job was to write a research memo on one aspect of the problem. Once we had our research memos finished, we started putting together our claimant memorandum. That took the better part of a month and totalled about 15,000 words. It was extremely satisfying to submit it to the competition, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief before we realised we had a month to complete two memos of the same length; and that due to internships and exchanges we would have three less team members to do it with.
Our job from now until the competition begins is to practice our oral advocacy skills before La Trobe mooting alumni, staff members, barristers and solicitors, who judge us on our performance. A moot lasts for an hour, where each member of the team presents their arguments for fifteen minutes. As team captain, it is my job to get in touch with our judges to schedule practice rounds and make sure everything is running smoothly behind the scenes.
Preparing for the Vis would be impossible without the support of La Trobe Law School and its staff. Whenever we practice in front of academics we are put on the spot with questions that challenge our arguments and help us to refine them. We have received valuable support from the library who took a very liberal approach to the due dates of text books, which we relied upon to formulate our arguments. They also scheduled special sessions with us to show the best ways to get the most out of La Trobe’s research databases. I would also like to send special thanks to everyone on the 2015/16 team.
The only thing to do from now until March is to keep our heads down, work hard, and look forward to representing the school in front of internationally renowned arbitration academics and practitioners. The Vis is a fantastic opportunity to make new friends, refine your research skills and develop your oral advocacy skills. I recommend anyone reading this post to consider applying for moot team in 2016/17.
For more information on mooting at La Trobe Law School, visit our mooting web page.