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With COVID-19 restrictions moving the Deakin Law School (DLS)-hosted event online for a second year, it was a triumph of talent as law students from around the world showcased their skills at the annual arbitration challenge.

A team of law students from the University of New South Wales has taken out top-spot in the 2021 Alfred Deakin International Commercial Arbitration (ICA) Moot, which was held online between 7–9 September.

Due to ongoing global travel restrictions, it’s the second consecutive year that the DLS-hosted arbitration challenge has moved to the Zoom virtual platform, but it didn’t daunt the enthusiasm of 44 teams of law students, representing 33 institutions from 12 countries including Nepal, India, Vietnam, Philippines, Lesotho, Tanzania, Mozambique, Benin and Brazil.  

Reflecting on their win, UNSW team members Jack Zhou, Alexander Humphreys and Nicholas Parker said that mooting against universities from all around the world was a major highlight.

‘This was our first time mooting against students from international universities and we thoroughly enjoyed connecting with the students from these universities and developing our own mooting technique by learning from the skills they displayed during the moots.

‘Being able to receive feedback from world leading arbitrators and arbitration academics was another highlight. The fact our performances developed so significantly as we progressed through the competition is a testament to the value and utility of the feedback we received.’

Acknowledging their coach William Jackson and the support of UNSW, the team also thanked DLS staff, competition organisers and volunteer arbitrators.

‘Without their time and hard work this event would not have been possible. Their ability to run a seamless event online, during a pandemic with teams from all around the world was remarkable and a privilege to be a part of.’

International recognition and growth

Sponsored by Allens Linklaters and CIAarb, the three-day Alfred Deakin ICA Moot has been hosted by DLS since 2017 and provides students with the opportunity to develop their skills in international commercial arbitration by resolving a hypothetical commercial dispute.

Arbitrators in the preliminary and semi-finals rounds included DLS alumni – many of whom competed in the prestigious international Vis Moot – with Professor Christopher Kee (Flinders University and Vis Moot Director), Michael Gronow (QC and Fellow of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators) and Duncan Travis (partner at Allens Linklaters and Vis Moot alumnus) presiding as the grand final judges.

DLS Partnerships Coordinator Linda Black said hosting the event online enabled even greater international participation in this year’s competition.

‘We were delighted to invite some stellar arbitrators to appraise our competitors from right around the world. Many of them are senior practitioners, senior academics in this field or are highly involved with the Vis Moot, which focuses on a similar area of law. This means that the competitors consistently receive excellent feedback that will support their progress in the moot and their future legal career. In this area of law, it is more realistic to deal with arbitrators in other countries. In addition,  with many types of arbitration (and courts) now online, it’s important that students have familiarity with online dispute resolution.’

With more international commercial arbitrations and dispute resolutions digitally transforming their layout, DLS commercial law lecturer, Dr Shu Zhang said virtualising the mooting competition accurately reflects current practice.

‘We are dealing with issues that would arise in real virtual hearings and judges’ feedback about the issues arising from virtual hearings is very valuable in this context. All the teams made a great effort to show the “teamwork” spirit with the added benefit of participation by renowned international arbitrators.’

Mooting fosters global skills and connections

Welcoming teams to the Alfred Deakin ICA Moot, Director of the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, Patrizia Natel, explained that arbitration is a preferred method to resolve international commercial disputes and is a perfect fit for law students. 

‘You learn to deal with important legal instruments … and it fosters the development of a standardised practice in the field of international arbitration [helping] understand what standards can be expected, independent of where you come from.

‘The moot will always be a connection, a source of friendship and collegial support that you can find throughout the world. Diversity is one of the biggest assets of a moot … and brings together students from different legal systems and different traditions of legal education.’

Diverse opportunities, valuable skills

Munich-based lawyer Michael Wietzorek, a team coach and coordinator for the teams in Africa who participated (and one of the founders of the Africa in the Moot initiative) said moot courts provide the opportunity to learn about the highly-relevant area of law along with valuable skills in written and verbal English. 

‘Moots are also highly beneficial to students’ future careers. I know several examples of contacts made in a moot court that led to internships, clerkships, traineeships, or even full-time graduate employment. Having a moot court on one’s CV resonates very well with law firms.’

Law graduate and now solicitor with a leading law firm in India, Kaainat Pundir competed in the 2020 Alfred Deakin ICA Moot with the high-performing Jindal Global University team (runners-up in this year’s competition).

‘Participating in this event was a unique experience. I worked alongside teammates virtually, with each of us located in different parts of India … the organisation of the moot was very smooth and with Deakin’s organisers making the virtual mooting experience very memorable. One of the best aspects is also the exposure and networking opportunities – the Alfred Deakin ICA Moot community is one I’m proud to be part of,’ she said.

Building a better legal environment

Dr Shu Zhang said the participation of students and volunteers from a wide range of law schools and institutions was greatly appreciated by DLS.

‘Especially those institutions which have not had significant experience in international mooting activities – they made great efforts to be a part of this competition. It was great to see the diversity – students from different law schools meeting and debating about the same set of legal issues. We had teams from four continents … this is consistent with the essence of studying and practicing international commercial law – people from different regions working together to solve their differences and establish a better legal environment for international transactions.’

2021 Alfred Deakin ICA Moot results:

Submissions

Claimant

Winner
University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia

Honourable Mention
Monash University, Melbourne Australia
Christ University, India
Deakin Law School, Melbourne Australia
Jindal Globe University Law School, India

Respondents

Winner
Christ University, India

Honourable Mention
Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, India
National University of Lesotho
University of Queensland, Queensland Australia
Ho Chi Minh City University, Vietnam

Preliminary Rounds

Best oralist 
Irene Muhoro - Strathmore University, Kenya

Grand Final

Best oralist
Alexander Humphreys - UNSW

Winning Team 

University of New South Wales - Jack Zhou, Alexander Humphreys, Nicholas Parker

Runners-Up

Jindal Global Law School - Aman Raj Singh Bajwa, Mayannk Sharma, Raghav Sengupta

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