PUBLISHED:April 18, 2012

Duke Law team shows well at Vis international arbitration moot

Four Duke Law students competed in the oral rounds of the 19th annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot competition in Vienna, Austria, earlier this month, making it to the final elimination rounds. Duke’s team of 3Ls Lia Smith, Ashley Watkins, and Justin Bart, and 1L Edward Bersuder competed against teams from 281 universities around the world, including 51 from the United States.

The students were coached by Senior Lecturing Fellow Charles R. Holton ’73, who teaches Arbitration Law and Practice, and Jennifer Maher ’83, Duke’s associate dean for international studies.

“We received several comments from neutral observers that our team was considered one of the best ones there,” said Holton, a partner at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Research Triangle Park, who traveled to Vienna with the team. “I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have gotten to know and coach this fine group of Duke Law students.”

The Duke team narrowly lost to a team from St. Cyril, Macedonia, in the round of 32.

The Vis competition consists of the preparation of a memorandum for a claimant, a memorandum for a respondent, and oral hearings, which began on March 31 at the Faculty of Law (Juridicum) of the University of Vienna and at nearby law firms. Jane Xia ’12 contributed to the Duke team’s briefs which addressed both procedural arbitration issues and substantive issues concerning the international sale of goods. The team prepared for the oral rounds with internal practice moots, videoconference practice sessions with several domestic and international teams, and participation in a pre-moot competition in Washington, D.C., joined by teams from about 20 other schools.

While in Vienna, Holton and the team members also enjoyed dinner with area alumni and prospective international LLM candidates; the event was hosted by Roland Herbst LLM ’04.

Duke Law was further represented in Vienna by Rocio Perez ’11, who coached a team from Costa Rica. A 1998 alumnus of the Duke-Geneva Institute in Transnational Law, Toni Deskosi, coached the Macedonian team, and Mingchao Fan, a former Fulbright scholar and Duke Vis team member, coached a team from Shanghai.

According to the Association for the Organisation and Promotion of the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, the competition is intended to stimulate the study of international commercial law, especially the legal texts prepared by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), and the use of international commercial arbitration to resolve international commercial disputes. The international nature of the competition is “intended to lead participants to interpret the texts of international commercial law in the light of different legal systems and to develop an expertise in advocating a position before an arbitral panel composed of arbitrators from different legal systems,” according to competition rules.

See previous coverage of Duke Law students in Vis competition.
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In Vienna for the oral rounds of the Vis international arbitration moot, L-R: Ashley Watkins '12, Justin Bart '12, coach Charles Holton '73, Lia Smith '12, and Edward Bersuder '14.