I just spent a marvelous week in Hong Kong with about 500 of the smartest, most articulate students on the planet. I was serving for the 17th time as an arbitrator in the annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot.
There are two Vis Moots each year – in Vienna (where the Moot was founded) and in Hong Kong. Each of the two events draws teams of law students from around the world for a week of mock arbitration hearings, leading up to a grueling elimination round.
Last year I had the pleasure of seeing my two hometowns triumph – the team from Victoria University of Wellington took first place in Vienna and the team from Loyola University of Los Angeles took first place in Hong Kong. I hope to have the opportunity of seeing Vic in action again next year when it returns to the competition after a year’s hiatus.
Others from New Zealand have participated as arbitrators at prior Moots, including my friend Attorney General Chris Finlayson.
This year I arbitrated 24 of the 75 teams that competed in Hong Kong, including teams from schools in Indonesia, Denmark, India, Hungary, Vietnam, the U.S., China, Slovenia, and Japan, among others.
As described very well on its website, “The goal of the Vis Arbitral Moot is to foster the study of international commercial law and arbitration for resolution of international business disputes through its application to a concrete problem of a client and to train law leaders of tomorrow in methods of alternative dispute resolution.”
The Moots also provide a great opportunity for students to meet fellow students and leading arbitrators from around the world, and to compete and socialize as colleagues. I go back to the Moots year after year in part because of the power of the Moots in building cross-border understanding, mutual respect, and strong personal and professional relationships.
One of the highlights of the Moot each year is the Saturday night dinner. All the students, coaches, and arbitrators pile onto a flotilla of junks and sail from Queen’s Pier in Hong Kong to Lamma Island, about 45 minutes away. There we take over an outdoor seafood restaurant near the dock and spend the evening eating, drinking, and singing songs (table by table).
Kudos to Professor Louise Barrington for founding the Vis Moot in Hong Kong 7 years ago and for being the driving force behind its accelerating success each year since then. Kudos as well to Professor Eric Bergsten for his lead role in founding the original Vis Moot in Vienna and for being its director and driving force for the past 17 years. The contributions of Professors Bergsten and Barrington to legal education, arbitral resolution of commercial disputes, and international understanding are simply extraordinary. They are also two of the nicest people you will ever meet.
This year two teams that I arbitrated ended up in the finals: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (Germany) and Deakin University (Australia), with Freiburg winning in a close call. I was very happy for both teams in part because I had mooted their respective coaches (Moritz Schmitt and Ben Hayward) several years ago when they themselves were competing as team members.
Another team that I arbitrated – from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (India) – won the Spirit Award this year for overcoming significant challenges in preparing for the Moot and getting to Hong Kong, all without a coach or adequate funding.
For more about the Vis Moots – including copies of the problems, the names of participating teams, the lists of prior winners, and information on how to participate – please see the Vis/Hong Kong website at cisgmoot.org and the Vis/Vienna website at cisg.law.pace.edu.