Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot Experience
By Manushi Satyajeet Desai
Mooting is the most beneficial of law student’s co curricular exercises if it’s practiced well. No other exercise offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.
More and more law students come to school thinking that a career in law can be established by merely doing exam related studying. That’s unfortunate. Studying and writing papers doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from being a moot court participant.
What is Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot Competition (FIAMC)
The Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot Competition, hosted every year by McDermott Will and Emery, is the most prestigious mooting event in the world in the field of investment protection law.
Every year around 40 of the top law schools from across all continents are selected after rigorous country rounds to participate in the finals. The 7th edition of the competition was at the University of Frankurt am Main and the Frankfurt am Main Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Germany.
As a part of Moot Court Society at Delhi University, we are supposed to choose teams for moot competitions. I saw my partner’s name on the list of members yet to get a partner and called him up. He is extremely good at debating and during the first meeting he started interviewing me asking me about my mooting experience at law college- something I love talking about.
Then he suggested trying something new- no Campus Law Centre student had gone for an international moot and he was keen to try for one being held in Frankfurt since the registration was nearby and we had a good buffer to prepare. I ran the idea past my father who encouraged me further to apply.
We were looking forward to going to Frankfurt and did the registration, team forming and getting the necessary permission. There were initially four members but however owing to prior commitments there remained just the two of us.We started discussing the facts and issue formation.
We came to know just a month prior to the moot that in India a lot of teams had applied while only six could qualify as per the moot rules. Hence a pre moot round was held at a law firm, DSK Legal in Mumbai where teams for all over India came for the National Round.
There were teams from all over India including NLUs and others and a tough time ensued. We had two rounds -one on each side and it was a thorough stress test since we had just arrived from the airport and had two rounds back to back without any food and rest early in the morning.
Moreover a few teams, unluckily for us had players already experienced in the FIAMC moot procedure making it tougher on the rest. Some teams had alumni and staff members helping me- far more experienced then the two of us. We did not realize that the moot would be based on the issues listed in the moot problem but thorough reading of facts and analytical thinking helped.
The Good News
The judges were experienced Bombay High Court lawyers who quizzed us on International treaties and facts of the case. We had prepared submissions in the form of list of dates and other supporting documents like family charts and excel sheets for taxation issues which were different and new to the judges and they appreciated it- helping us gain a few brownie points.
Later, the judges helped all of us learn from our mistakes by giving feedback. In the end they called out the names of the six teams qualified to go to Frankfurt and thankfully our team qualified!
After this life was a whirlwind. Being students we had to manage internships, visa formalities, fund raising from college and alumni, study preparations and finding time to work on the moot all within less than a month. The college was extremely supportive and gave us the necessary no objection letters and helped prepare for the moot.
Since it was just the two of us, we invited Prof Usha Tandon to come too and help build the team stronger since one teacher is allowed to accompany. Unfortunately owing to her daughter’s school exam she opted out. However, she did help us before and after in getting the moot partly sponsored.
Prep time for FIAMC
I could not believe that preparing for a moot could be so tough! The University in Germany granted us access to the various law search portals and arbitration database. Besides, I used to to read the facts almost twice a day since the problem was long and complex. We got guidance from professors but arbitration needs self study and lots of preparation. Luckily, the visa process went smoothly and I was enroute Frankfurt.
Different aspects of the moot
The first round started at 8am in the morning. The speakers would decide before hand whether the teams should argue issue wise or assign ten of the time allocated to argue on issues and then ten minutes for rebuttal and then inform the judges about the structure in which they would be arguing.
The judges sat in the centre and we occupied seats on either side. As soon as the judges came, we generally rose. Before we began speaking, the first speaker introduced the team and stated our name, nationality and college. It helped to break the ice. We started with introductions than argued the relevant question of law and ended with direct rebuttals and prayer. Before we begin, we would ask the judges if they needed a summary of facts.
They preferred being asked this rather than us just including it in the summary- an unwise option. The other teams had upto five participants. The coach and four speaker- two appellant and two respondents which was a good way to learn and divide work. The coach was generally not allowed to argue but in case someone falls ill, he can step in.
There are two things unique in the moot at Goethe university- the moot and the socials where we get to meet judges and interact with all other students. The arbitrators were professors and lawyers from as far as Singapore.
They were extremely approachable, gave us good feedback such as address an arbitration tribunal as Honorary tribunal and not point out a single judge saying your lordship or Mr. Arbitrator. They also did not accept any Annexure unless we provided one to the opposite team so keep enough copies ready.
The judges preferred a spiral bound version flagged appropriately instead of loose sheets for annexures of other cases. They advised us on our Body language and eye contact apart from the need to keep your phones silent.
What happened in the moot
During the course of argument, there was a cross talk of healthy kind between the opponents where rebuttals we replaced and replies on doubts of the opposite teams, and pointing out flaws of the opponents which was extremely lively and we felt that the time was very little unlike arguments we see in Supreme Court of India with long waiting periods and large arguments.
I observed that while teams were extremely well prepared, a lack of courage in mooting can lead a person to stammer and during the work causing negative impressions on the tribunal hence a lot of advocacy training and speaking before a mirror is needed.
Moreover, the judges are used to thoroughly go through the case facts and ask questions based on that so it is extremely important to read the case twenty to hundred times, spiral bound and prepare a proper memo five copies minimum.
Accommodation and food
The plus point of the moot is free food – a seven star course of soups, salads, yummy main dishes and amazing desserts but the university does not provide accommodation. It was tough but most participants either booked youth hostels or like me had someone staying nearby. I used to travel by subway from a friend’s place in the suburbs. The journey took 45 minutes and is pretty safe till even late in the night.
There were a lot of networking opportunities. I remember getting visiting cards from the Paris team who had got them customized for the Frankfurt occasion with their entire team’s contact details on it. Having the blessings of the likes of SG Mohan Parasaran, ASG Siddarth Luthra , his associates and other benefactors, we ended up getting a part sponsorship which we spent on the air ticket.
This encouragement meant we were so engrossed in learning that we ended up missing some mixers and instead preparing late in the night keeping in touch via Facebook since we stayed in different places. The competition was so intense I remember a student dropping a semester for preparation. Luckily we were too overconfident to think of dropping a semester!
Coming from India, students tend to wear the traditional white and black formals- a big no no for International Arbitration. I felt that my peers from other universities who wore formal skirts , dresses and ‘colorful’ attire created a better impression on the arbitration tribunal. You should buy something special for the moot!
In the end, we pleaded twice as respondents and also got to plead for a third time. However, we could not go ahead being novices and thus went our moot experience starting from National representatives to ending up as Participants for the first time from Delhi University in an International Moot- a journey worth sharing with you!
About the Author: Manushi Desai is a Final Year Law Student who has interned with law firms such as AMSS, Anand & Anand, Karanjawala, AZB etc and lawyers in the Supreme Court and High Courts of Gujarat and Bombay.
She is an avid mooter and is interested in pursuing an LLM next year. She likes volunteering at Yuva in her free time and is an enthusiastic reader. She can be reached by her twitter handle @manushidesai.
Team Lawctopus sincerely thanks Manushi for sharing her experience.