After finishing second by a narrow margin the past two years, the University of Helsinki finally got their revenge. The team from Finland took home the prize for the best team and the best individual performance when Mannheimer Swartling, together with Stockholm University and the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, co-hosted this prestigious competition in international arbitration once again. The competition, which is a pre-moot to the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot to be held later this spring, attracted eleven teams from nine countries.
The moot, which took place during an intensive weekend on 7-8 March, saw 80 participants from eleven teams representing universities from England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland. It is one of the highlights in the students’ preparations for the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, one of the world’s most prestigious competitions in arbitration. The Vis competition, which will be held simultaneously in Vienna and Hong Kong in late March, attracts hundreds of law student teams from around the world every year. The purpose of the contest is to promote the development of international arbitration.
“A fantastic weekend,” says Ricardo Gomes, a member of the winning team from Helsinki. “It was incredibly instructive to experience arbitration in practice, partly through the competition and partly through the field trip and conference on arbitration at the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholms Handelskammares Skiljedomsinstitut (SCC), which was one of the weekend’s many highlights. This experience has definitely made me think about a future career in international arbitration.”
He was also designated as the individual winner after narrowly defeating Isabelle Cordey, who along with her teammates from the University of Fribourg, finished in a respectable second place.
According to Patricia Shaughnessy, Head of the Masters Programme in Arbitration and International Commercial Arbitration Law (ICAL) at Stockholm University, who also coaches the Swedish team, this competition is the first time many students come face to face with what might be their future reality.
“It can be quite stressful for students to have both their preparations and their ability to plead reviewed and rated by critical arbitration experts, consisting of both practitioners and representatives from academia. But most manage to handle the situation very well,” says Shaughnessy.
Her views are seconded by Alexander Fessas, Managing Counsel at the International Court of Arbitration (ICC) in Paris. He was participating in the Mannheimer Swartling Vis Arbitration Pre-moot for the first time, but has experience in many other pre-moots.
“The quality of the work that the students exhibited here in Stockholm was high,” notes Fessas. “I’m impressed. It is also interesting to see the different styles, perspectives and frames of reference that the students have based on their respective countries. This competition also gives students a useful insight into other perspectives and an opportunity to learn from each other.”
For Mannheimer Swartling, the longstanding involvement in this pre-moot is a natural part of the firm’s engagement in society. Over 20 employees from the office were engaged in organising and participating in the competition in various ways and according to Kristoffer Löf, Partner at Mannheimer Swartling and a member of the Dispute Resolution group who leads the firm’s involvement in the competition, Mannheimer Swartling Vis Arbitration Pre-moot also provides an opportunity to highlight Stockholm as a leading international centre for arbitration law.
“It also promotes cooperation between practising lawyers and academia,” says Löf.
All agree that exposure to a broader international perspective and the opportunity to network are some of the competition’s most important outcomes for students. Social abilities are considered particularly important for lawyers in arbitration law and there even is a prize awarded to the most popular team in the competition. This year, the prize went to the University College of London.
“I’m so glad I seized this opportunity,” says Joanna Romgard from Stockholm University’s team, who has worked part-time at Mannheimer Swartling during her studies. “This is a fantastic way to meet other aspiring lawyers of other nationalities. Last weekend, I was with my team in Helsinki; next weekend we will compete in London, then Paris, and then the final in Vienna.”
Romgard is about to finish writing her thesis on arbitration and will take up a position as an associate at the firm at the end of the summer.
“One of the most useful experiences of the competition is that one must learn to prioritise,” she continues. “There is a huge amount of work that is added to the normal study load, but when I look back on this after Vienna, I am confident that I will find that it was well worth every hour.”
Of the approximately 20 pre-moots held around the world, the Stockholm pre-moot is among the most highly regarded ones that teams attend in preparation for the final fictional dispute that will be decided in Vienna and Hong Kong. Teams sometimes take on positions as plaintiffs and sometimes as defendants.
“It’s great that our competition is so appreciated. Many teams plan their pre-moot schedule around the tournament in Stockholm,” says Jonna Sidén, Associate at Mannheimer Swartling, who has acted as an arbitrator in the competition for several years. “We arbitrators also enjoy ourselves. I even participated when I was on maternity leave.”
About this year’s Mannheimer Swartling Vis Arbitration Pre-moot
Since the case was released in October 2014, the teams have engaged in intensive forensic and written exercises that require determining questions of contract in the context of the arbitration of a dispute under the ICC Arbitration Rules. The questions stem from a transaction relating to the sale or purchase of goods under the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods and other uniform international commercial law.
Previous years results: