For the 29th time, the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot brought together thousands of students from across the globe, both virtually and in person. Saarland University participated in this immersive experience for the 19th timeunder the supervision of Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Helmut Rüßmann.
This year’s team comprised a strong all-female lineup: Meera Dubey, Beatriz Solanas Huerta, Ariana Ospina and Anusha Osman Ali rose to the challenge and represented Saarland University. All four participants are LL.M. candidates in European and International Law at the University’s Europa-Institut. Besides Prof. Rüßmann, the students were coached by Elinam De Souza (mootie in the 28th Vis Moot/PhD candidate), Pieter Van Vaerenbergh (mootie in the 25th Vis Moot/PhD candidate/Associate at Fieldfisher Brussels) and Eva Wingler (senior government official in the Hessian financial administration).
The 2021/22 Vis Moot Problem dealt with the sale and production of palm oil and biofuels. The moot organizers designed a fictional case with factual relevance bycombining the topical issue of sustainability in the palm oil industry with intrinsic legal complexities on contract conclusion and the consequences of applying various laws to the conclusion of an arbitration agreement. Prof. Rüßmann observes how challenging this year’s Problem was and commends the students on their ability to understand these intricate legal arguments: “This year’s procedural issue was so complex that many teams and arbitrators struggled to find the correct legal approach. The reasons for the difficulties lied in the fact that the approach taken by courts (German and English) in the two leading cases could, due to their peculiar legal situations, not be followed in the Vis Moot case. Saarland University knew the correct approach, but the arguments were not always met with the understanding of arbitrators”.
Between October 2021 and January 2022, the students prepared memoranda from the perspective of both the Claimant and Respondentin the dispute. Mootie Beatriz looks back on the drafting efforts and the challenge to present complex legal issues in a structured, understandable and convincing way: “We carried out a rigorous analysis in our research to assess the strengths and weaknesses of possible arguments. During this time, it was key to identify the relevant facts that bear upon the case file and to intertwine them with the legal issues and arguments”.
In February and March 2022, the competition continued with the oral phase. The students turned their written submissions intosuccinctoral arguments of 15 minutes, which they presented in various Pre-Moots. For the first time since the pandemic began, the team also travelled to an in-person Pre-Moot in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mootie Meera found the experience particularly riveting: “The Pre-Moots offereda possibility to train our oral advocacy and get feedback from world-renowned practitioners for making winning arguments.We are particularly proud to have won second place in the Zenica Pre-Moot, after facing excellent teams in several rounds of argumentation”.The team further participated in virtual pre-moots, including the AIAC Pre-Moot, Stuttgart Pre-Moot, and Fordham Pre-Moot.
The students also received useful tips and tricks from experienced moot and oral advocacy expert John Faulk (RemTene Mooting).“One of the highlights in the Vis Moot for me was the oral advocacy training, in which I learned different techniques for presenting, gesturing and breathing in order to hone my oral advocacy skills”, Mootie Ariana comments. Thanks to this experience, all students could develop their ability to present confidently and poised when speaking in any public setting.
In April, the Vis Moot experience culminated with the final rounds, where the team faced universities from Japan, India, Turkey and the United States. Anusha comments on her experience in virtual Vienna: “It was thrilling to compete against teams from various countries with diverse backgrounds, each bringing their own unique perspective on the case”. She particularly recalls the challenge to respond to the different types of questions posed by arbitrators: “I managed to overcome all these challenges by keeping my composure, staying original and confidently presenting my arguments”.
Overall, the students were able to gain in-depth knowledge of essential aspects in commercial arbitration, pocket useful skills for their legal profession, and make lasting and meaningful connections. Saarland University will again participate in the 30th Vis Moot, scheduled to take place in Vienna in April 2023. Interested students are invited to submit their CV and motivation letter to firstname.lastname@example.org by 10 June 2022.