A report by Professor Harris Weinstein
Faculty Adviser, CUA Law Arbitration Team
This year, for the first time, we divided Catholic University’s international arbitration team into several units: Team Frankfurt traveled to Frankfurt, Germany to compete in a leading international investment arbitration moot; Team Asia represented the school in Vis Commercial Arbitration Moots in Shanghai and Hong Kong; and Team Europe competed in Vis moots in Belgrade, Budapest and Vienna.
By changing the prior practice of sending the entire team to one venue, we increased the number of opportunities team members had to argue in international competitions and increased the number of team members eligible for recognition as outstanding oralists. In the aggregate, the team participated in more than 30 matches in six international competitions.
The Frankfurt competition came first, on March 12, 2012. Andrea Cole Lawson, 2012, and Jose M. Vega, 2013 (above) were on their own in an elite and challenging international competition among 33 teams from 18 countries.
Never before had our law school competed in an investment moot. Andrea and Jose had no coach with them, no other team members to share the pressure of six arguments over four days, and no law school course in international investment law. Only one other team had as few as two members.
A unique feature of the Frankfurt competition is that teams are not told until the day of a match which side they are to represent and which 3 of 11 specified issues they are to argue. Andrea and Jose had to master all issues of a complex case, and, on short notice, decide how to present the portion assigned for each match.
Despite these handicaps, our duo achieved exceptional success against veteran opponents. At the end of the general rounds, our team ranked fourth in the world, and second among the six teams from American law schools. Never before had we achieved so high a ranking in an international arbitration competition. The successful run ended only when we lost a split decision in the quarterfinals.
“This has been one of the most formative experiences of our careers thus far, and one from which we will benefit for years to come,” said Vega.
We rightly take great pride in this result -- not only for the outcome, but for the intellectual skill and personal fortitude our two students demonstrated in accepting a new challenge, which they met with great skill and energy.
Left to right: Nicola Nikolov, Ted Booth, Julia Fisher (Captain 2011-2012), Frances Bishop (Captain 2012-2013), Andrea Shuford, and Marta Thompson. Taken in Shanghai.
Team Asia (above) started their journey in Shanghai, the next venue on our team’s international schedule. The moot began on March 16, 2012 and, like the Frankfurt moot, lasted for four days. The Shanghai competition included teams from 22 law schools from across the globe. Our six-student team performed to high praise in the four general rounds.
The CUA team ranked second after the four general rounds of the competition, setting another new record for the best ever finish by a CUA arbitration team in international competition. In the quarterfinals we faced off against Eotvos Lorand University Faculty of Law from Hungary. After a strong performance, we won the round and advanced to the semi-finals, arguing against the University of Denver. This was the first time CUA appeared in a semi-final round in an international arbitration competition. The round was extremely close but the arbitral panel awarded the decision to Denver. Denver went on to win the final round against the University of St. Gallen from Switzerland.
At the awards ceremony, the CUA team was presented with a semi-finalist trophy, which will soon be added to the law school’s trophy case. Team captain, Julia Fisher ’12, was among those awarded an honorable mention as one of the best oralists in the competition.
The other five team members also scored well in their arguments. Two, Andrea Shuford '12 and Ted Booth '12, had scores that were significantly above the cut-off of 83.5 for honorable mention but were ineligible for recognition because the Shanghai schedule allowed them only one argument each. Two of the other three team members missed the 83.5 mark by only 1/6th of a point, and the third missed by only a third of a point.
Despite performing so well in Shanghai, the team did not advance to the knockout rounds in the Vis Competition in Hong Kong. CUA was ranked 43rd in the general rounds, essentially in the middle of the 80-plus teams from law schools throughout the world.
Left to right: Kirsten Bender (2D), Grace Rodden (1E), Michelle Curth (3D), and Craig Gaver (3D).
Team Europe (above) started their competition journey in Belgrade, a competition structured as practice-only; there were no awards or finals. Our work in the Belgrade Open was significant in preparing the four team members for the competition in Budapest.
The Central European Vis Pre-Moot was held on March 27-28, 2012 at Budapest’s Karoli Gaspar University. The general rounds consisted of three matches on March 27th and a fourth match on March 28th. Each of Craig Gaver ’12, Michelle Curth ’12, Grace Rodden ’12 and Kirsten Bender ’13 argued in two of the general round matches.
The leaders were announced at an assembly on the last day of the general rounds. CUA was ranked first in the competition. Gaver and Curth were named first and second best oralists in a field that included over 40 law students from 11 schools spread over Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
We then had one final hurdle to overcome – the CUA team had to meet and beat the second best team to win the championship. Gaver and Curth, representing Respondent, prevailed in the championship match against the University of Sao Paulo. After a very difficult round in front of an impressive panel, Team Europe had won the annual Central European Vis Pre-Moot! We thus achieved the first ever first place finish in the seven year history of the team.
The final stop on the trip was the Vienna Vis Moot itself, now in its 19th year. Although we have not yet learned exactly where we ranked in Vienna, we know we were not among the top 64 teams in this “Olympics of International Trade Law,” as a European business magazine has described it.
We treasure, however, comments from arbitrators who sat on our Vienna arguments. Perhaps the most notable comment came at the conclusion of our final argument of the year. One of the arbitrators described Craig Gaver’s argument with one word: “lawyerlike” and went on to say he could think of no higher praise.
The team fully understands the size of the challenge in front of us. Without diminishing the importance of this year’s great successes in Frankfurt, Shanghai and Budapest, which we hope to repeat, a particularly important goal for next year is to return to the knockout rounds in the two major venues of Vienna and Hong Kong. We consistently reached this goal in each year from 2006 through 2010. We shall do all that we can to return to this level in 2013.
Our new leadership team from the Class of 2013 includes Frances Bishop as captain and her co-captains, Kirsten Bender and Jose Vega. They have been impressive members of this year’s team, and they will be outstanding team leaders next year. They are already at work designing the selection process and training programs that we hope will lead us to even greater achievements.
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This report would be incomplete without acknowledging our appreciation of those who contributed to our training, and our financial supporters who made this year’s team travel possible.
We start with our thanks to our retiring Dean Veryl Miles, who has consistently supported our efforts to conquer simultaneously the challenges of international contract and investment law and the arts of written and oral advocacy. We also thank her for providing the funding that the 2011-2012 team, and our predecessors, have needed to make ends meet.
We are deeply indebted to several lawyers who volunteered their time and talent to help coach the team:
David M. Bigge, an honors-winning alumnus of the Harvard Vis team and currently an attorney-advisor in the United States State Department, gave generously of his time to help the entire team learn how to become effective oral advocates and to advance Andrea Cole Lawson’s and Jose Vega’s understanding of international investment law.
CUA Professor Antonio F. Perez, a former Vis coach, provided invaluable lectures on the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods and on conflicts of laws. He also mooted the team, offering important perspectives on international contract law.
Allan Moore, co-head of the international arbitration practice of Covington & Burling LLP, lectured on the essential attributes of effective advocacy for the fourth consecutive year.
O. Thomas Johnson, a retired Covington partner and a current member of the Iran Claims Tribunal – and father of a graduating CUA Law student – helped coach Andrea Cole Lawson and Jose Vega in their initial consideration of this year’s Frankfurt problem.
Our adjunct lecturer, Joe Brubaker, an honors-winning alumnus of the Columbia Vis team, with two of his colleagues at White & Case LLP, Peter Polasek and Kristen Young, provided Andrea and Jose with a crucial moot the day before their departure for Frankfurt.
We are especially grateful to five CUA Vis team alumni:
Renee-Lauren Ellis and Chelsea Severson, co-captains of the 2009-2010 team, each of whom devoted many hours to assisting us in learning substance and advocacy. Susan E. Lehman, captain of the 2007-2008 team, Sarah M. Wyss, captain of the 2008-2009 team, and Keith Huffman of the 2010-2011 team, all associated with the Washington/Shanghai international trade firm of Mowry & Grimson PLLC, hosted and conducted an especially useful oral practice session for this year’s team.
Finally, but of greatest importance, we could not have gone where we have been, or achieved so much, without the generous financial contributions we received from family, friends and CUA alums and students. We raised over $10,000 independently of CUA funding this year. Our great donors are listed alphabetically below:
In addition, over $1,000 was contributed by CUA students who attended two fund raising events organized by Arbitration Team members.