In March, students from UTA’s Moot Court team went up against teams from Belgium, Germany, Japan and Romania at the 2016 Annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot.
UTA was the only undergraduate institution in the United Stated that qualified to participate in the competition based on submissions of Claimant and Respondent Memoranda. The competition included 311 teams of law students from nearly 200 countries worldwide.
“By all accounts, they were indistinguishable from their law school counterparts. They tied the first round against the team from Belgium and lost the second against Germany,” said Amber White, Director of UTA Pre-Law Center.
The competition is structured such that 2 teams will compete in a round arbitrating on an issue given to them around August or September each year. They arbitrate the matter before an arbitral tribunal consisting of arbitrators/attorneys/judges from countries differing from that of the students competing in that round. Rounds typically last 1-2 hours with each side (claimant and respondent) having the opportunity to present their side of the case.
“They rallied and destroyed the Japanese and Romanian teams in the final two rounds…”
-Amber White, Director of UTA Pre-Law Center
“They rallied and destroyed the Japanese and Romanian teams in the final two rounds. They were quite the formidable adversaries and we were so incredibly proud of them,” said White. “And to top it all off we made contacts with students, attorneys, judges and faculty from schools in Australia, Brazil, Munich, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand, France, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Romania, New York and San Diego – all of whom were shocked that we were an undergraduate team. The experience was worth it in every way.”
The try-out process for UTA students was competitive. Only students demonstrating oral, research and writing capabilities had the opportunity to go for the team. From there, students had to submit resumes, writing samples and show their speaking style to Amber White and Head Coach, Mercy McBrayer.
“The question was whether undergraduate students without law knowledge could write the 2 memoranda required to compete. What we found is that they absolutely can, and did.”
-Head Coach, Mercy McBrayer
“As a former competitor myself, the competition helped me decide on a career path in commercial arbitration,” said McBrayer. “This was an experimental year for everyone on the team. Amber White had an idea, which came to fruition beyond what we could have expected. The question was whether undergraduate students without law knowledge could write the 2 memoranda required to compete. What we found is that they absolutely can, and did.”
The trip provided a sense of accomplishment and pride in the students. “The most memorable occurrence during the trip was being treated as a capable professional. Truly, when anyone knew you were a “mootie”—as participants are called— they acknowledged your talents and efforts,” said Ramon Hernandez, UTA Vis Moot team member. “They treated you as a success story, one who is worthy of fancy dinners, and who can be trusted to argue multi-million dollar disputes. It was encouraging, especially as an undergraduate student.”
This was not the first year that UTA Moot Court team participated. A team in 2011 went under the leadership of the late Dr. Charles Knerr, father of Undergraduate Moot Court as it exists today. He founded the American Collegiate Moot Court and Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Programs, national championships were held every year at UTA.
“This year’s veteran arbitrators were impressed by our team’s dedication and the work they put into writing the memorandum to be accepted into the competition,” said McBrayer. “I will absolutely coach again next year.”
The team for the 2017 Vis Moot Competition has already been selected and will begin training in June 2016. To donate to the UTA Vis Moot Team fund, go to https://giving.uta.edu/giving-cola and enter “Pre-Law” as your donation designation.