Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Interview with Prof.Martin Hunter on VIS. NOT TO MISS!

At Lex Arbitri, particularly at Vindobona Junction we have tried partnering all the Vis participants in the wonderful and exciting journey of the Moot. Not to forget, the moot is considered to be the "Olympics" of international trade law and is one of the few moots reported at the UN.

Trying to give the most authentic insights of the moot, we present to you an interview of Prof.Martin Hunter.

Prof. Hunter needs no introduction in the field of arbitration. His book which which he has co-authored with Sir Alan Redfern, often cited as the "Red Bible" on arbitration has certainly turned Blue with its new edition. (By Red and Blue, I only refer to the colours of the cover of the book)

The participants at VIS Vienna would surely find him as a judge in one of the final rounds of the moot. Last year he had coached the team from Kings College, London which had won the moot. We hope his insights would help everybody related to Vis or even remotely related to arbitration mooting.

Q- 1. The first submission is already over, what do you think is the most important thing for an award winning memorandum?
A-1. I don’t think I can identify one single point. In the mooting context, a good memorandum must have a sound structure, and it must have clarity. Obviously, it should demonstrate an ability to analyse complex legal issues, and to assemble persuasive arguments. The review panel will also, generally, look at how convincingly the memoranda have dealt with the weak arguments as well as how well they have argued the strong points. I also think that the final draft text should be edited again and again, and again and again. You would probably be surprised at the number of times professional authors review their own drafts texts. It may be as many as five or six times. Each read-through will be for a specific purpose. The first might be for structure. The second may be for validity of the content. The third may be a technical proof-read for grammar and spelling, etc (no sentence should be more than 25 words, no sentence should contain more than one set of parentheses; no paragraph should attempt to deal with more than one proposition). The fourth might be for clarity. The last will be for the ‘need-to-know’ test for each proposition – does the reader really need to be informed of it? If not, strike it out.

Q-2. How important is formatting according to you?
A-2 It is very important to stick precisely to the formatting instructions given in the rules of the competition.

Q-3. Can you identify any particular region who are exceptionally good with their memorandums and any reason for the same?
A-3. I am not aware of any regional trend, but I do recall the German teams being particularly strong in the early years of the Vis. I think that German universities focused on the CISG more than universities in other countries, particularly than those from the common law world. Recently, the Australian universities have done well. I have the impression that they are particularly well-coached for the memoranda.

Q-4 What is more important for a memorandum: to be based on law or on facts?
A-4 It depends partly on the problem in any particular year. In some years the factual issues are dominant, in others the legal (CISG) issues are in the front line. Don’t forget that the procedural aspect of the problem is also equally important, and that this usually involves mixed issues of fact and (procedural) law, which is not at all related to the CISG. The procedural aspects are nearly always governed by the UNCITRAL Model Law and a particular set of international arbitration rules. I feel that some of the more academic-type coaches focus too much on the substantive (CISG) aspect of the problem, and not enough on the procedural aspect. Both are equally important in the context of evaluating the teams’ memoranda.

Q-5 Coming to orals, what are the crucial things to make a mark at VIS?
A-5. By the orals stage, good presentation skills are as important as knowledge of the law. Many teams, and their coaches, spend proportionately too much time and effort on the academic aspects of the problem and do not give adequate time and importance to presentation. Moot competitions are an important part of training to become a practising lawyer, and are intended to test presentational skills as well as the ability to analyse a factual and law-related scenario. Elements such as posture, body language, pacing and tonality are important. By the time of the oral phase most teams are on the top of the problem, particularly in the final elimination rounds. The arbitrators (who are also the competition judges) will be looking for the extent to which the teams appearing before them have abandoned ‘bad’ arguments and have found attractive ways of presenting the good arguments. By the time of the quarter/semi final rounds the differential between the teams is more likely to be seen in their presentational skills, rather than their in their technical prowess in analysing the legal and factual issues.

Q-6. Again, would you like to identify any geographical region very good in the oral skills?
A-6. One of the strengths of the Vis Moot is that success is marked by a remarkable level of diversity. I have not counted, but certainly the winners of the main team prize have come from both civil law and common law countries. Winning teams have also come from developed and developing countries. There is also a remarkable, and manifestly unmanipulated, diversity both as to gender and race.

Q-7. Do you believe LUCK plays a role at VIS?
A-7. Oh, yes! Absolutely. I think that quality plays the greater part in the four preliminary rounds. Some, but not many, really strong teams are eliminated; and some, but not many, weak teams go through to the final rounds. But in the elimination rounds the dynamic changes significantly. Assessing the competing teams on a ‘knock-out’ basis is a very subjective exercise, and the tribunal deliberations after the arguments are concluded can, in my experience, be coloured by the way that relationships between the three arbitrators have developed before and during the hearing. I am always struck by the relatively large number of results in the elimination rounds that are reached by a majority vote, which shows that the decision could have gone either way.

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