AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas School of Law finished among the top eight teams at the Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna, Austria, on April 1-8. They were among 136 teams from around the world that competed at the Vis, the largest international business moot competition for law students. UT was also honored for outstanding oral advocacy and brief writing.
The UT team of advocates—Emily Finn, Veronica Jackson and Benjamin Putnam—lost to a team from Victoria Wellington, New Zealand, which went all the way to the finals and finished second in the world. On top of the team performance, UT’s Jackson received honorable mention for the Martin Domke award for oral advocacy, given to the best advocate in the competition. Thirty-two students were so honored among more than 300 competitors.
The UT team also included Stacey McLarty, Benton Love, and Luemara Wagner, who joined the advocates in working on the claimant’s and respondent’s briefs. The UT respondent’s brief was awarded third place in the world. Finn, Jackson and Putnam traveled to the competition to represent the entire team.
“Although we have sent some excellent teams, this is by far the best finish ever for a UT team in this competition,” said UT Law professor Jay Westbrook, one of the team’s coaches. He attributes their success to a combination of hard work and the opportunity to practice against outstanding teams from the University of Houston, Monterrey Tech, and the University of Freiburg, whose team reached the final four. “The opportunity to practice in Europe against one of the finest teams in the competition was created by the generous donations of our sponsoring law firms,” Westbrook noted. The firms who acted as sponsors were King & Spalding; Baker & Botts; Cox & Smith; Fulbright & Jaworski; Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw; and Vinson & Elkins. “Of course,” he added, “everything starts with talented students.”
U.S. teams that “broke out” from the preliminary rounds, in addition to Texas, were Georgetown, Harvard, John Marshall Law School, Loyola of Chicago, Loyola of Los Angeles, Tulane, the University of Florida, the University of the Pacific, and the University of Pittsburgh. Only seven U.S. teams made it to the round of 16 finalists: Texas, Harvard, Georgetown, Loyola of Los Angeles, Tulane, the University of Florida, and the University of Pittsburgh. Tulane and Texas were the only U.S. schools to make the round of 8 top teams. No U.S. team got past the round of 8. Wellington was opposed in the finals by Osgoode Hall of Toronto, which was the ultimate winner.
One of the three Texas advocates was an Australian, Emily Finn, who is getting her J.D. at Texas. She was amazed and amused to find herself opposing another Australian in the round of 16, in which the opponent was Ljubljana University of Slovenia. “That’s when I realized the world is truly globalizing,” Finn said.
Arbitration is the standard method by which international commercial disputes are settled, and the competition provides students with important practical experience in settling such disputes by writing briefs and participating in oral arguments. The arbitrator-judges in the Vis competition, like the teams, come from both common law and civil law countries around the world and most of them are experienced international commercial litigators. The problem that is the subject of the moot dispute arises in the context of the Vienna Convention on the International Sale of Goods, which governs many international contracts to which American companies are parties. The problem this year had to do with defective packaging machines as well as various points of arbitration procedure.
The UT team was coached by Alan Rau and Jay Westbrook, professors at UT Law, and arbitration expert and adjunct professor John Fleming. The Vis Arbitral Moot is sponsored by the American Arbitration Association, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the International Chamber of Commerce, the London Court of International Arbitration, and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).