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Cincinnati Moot Court Team To Go International


This coming March, a team from the University of Cincinnati College of Law will compete in an international arbitration moot in Hong Kong.

By John B. Pinney, Senior Trial Lawyer and Chair, International Practice Group, Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP. and Moot team coach


Members of the Vis Moot Team

Over the past two years, the University of Cincinnati College of Law has been working towards fielding a team to compete “against the world” in Hong Kong in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. Now, all of the time and hard work has come to fruition as a team of UC College of Law students will represent the tri-state in late March at the 2017 international competition, becoming only the second Ohio school to compete in the Vis Moot in history.

Making the Cut

In October, a team of eight law students, including three 3Ls, three 2Ls, and two LLM attorney students, was selected. Currently, the entire team is working on researching and preparing written memoranda supporting each side of a hypothetical commercial dispute; only the top four participants will travel to Hong Kong to compete.

While in Hong Kong, the team members will not only fight hard in competing against teams from all six continents, but will also meet and network with other law students, as well as attorneys practicing in international commercial arbitration, from all over the world.

What is the Vis Moot Competition?

In 1992, the Vis Moot was created for the promotion and study of international commercial arbitration and to train tomorrow’s legal leaders in the methods of dispute resolution of international business disputes. Named for Willem C. Vis, a law professor and United Nations diplomat dedicated to enhancing cross-border business transactions, the moot quickly became a success with hundreds of law schools from around the world coming to Vienna each spring. In fact, the moot was so successful that in 2003 a second venue in Hong Kong was established – the Vis East International Arbitration Moot. The 2016 moot attracted almost 400 teams to Vienna and Hong Kong. Competitors included teams from Harvard, Georgetown, Stanford, USC and Yale. This year’s competition, held at the City University of Hong Kong, is expected to host approximately 120 law school teams.

Each year, Vis Moot teams are given a “problem” in early October that is based on a hypothetical commercial dispute arising under the Convention for Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG)1. The problem for the 2017 moot involves the sale of jet engine parts from a seller located in “Equitoriana” and a buyer located in “Mediterraneo.” In their “contract,” the parties agreed to resolve any disputes by international commercial arbitration in the country of “Danubia” administered by a Brazilian arbitral institution. (The problem is always drafted to require an understanding of the 1958 New York Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of International Arbitration Awards and the UNCITRAL Model Arbitration Law, as well as the CISG.)

Built into each year’s problem are issues involving both the procedures of international arbitration practice and substantive breach of contract issues based on the CISG. The procedural issues this year are whether the seller’s arbitration notice was timely and whether the seller should be required to post security in order to proceed with the arbitration. The substantive issues deal with whether the buyer or seller should pay for losses arising from fluctuating currency exchange rates and large unexpected bank fees. During the competition, each team will argue both sides through written memoranda and in oral arguments before real-life international arbitrators who have volunteered to judge the competition.

Competition Supported throughout Tri-State
College of Law Dean Jennifer S. Bard is a strong advocate for the law school’s international programs and in enhancing the international proficiency of the school’s students. In addition, the school has helped to partially underwrite the costs of sending the team to the competition. Dean Bard said,

In a world where business in the Cincinnati region is increasingly becoming part of a globalized world economy, today’s lawyers need to know how to help clients resolve business disputes not only within the United States, but also in China, in Germany or, as a practical matter, anywhere in the world. We at the College of Law believe we must equip our graduates to have the skills required to practice law relevant in the 21st century, including international arbitration, which increasingly is becoming a necessity for today’s dispute resolution lawyers. The Vis Moot provides not only an exciting opportunity for our students to travel to Hong Kong and see first-hand another culture and legal system different from our own, but, more importantly, it introduces them to and allows them to learn from some of the world’s leading international dispute lawyers and arbitrators. We are extremely happy to support our students and their coach, Professor Pinney, as they compete in the 2017 Vis Moot competition.”

Additionally, Professor Rachel Smith, faculty advisor to the law school’s Moot Court program, and Assistant Dean for International Student Programs Nora Burke Wagner assisted with helping to coordinate the team and arrangements for the trip. Steve McDevitt, an associate at Frost Brown Todd, serves as the team’s assistant coach. McDevitt brings a wealth of experience to the team as he competed in the competition in 2013 and 2014 while at Georgetown Law School and has shared insights on writing winning memoranda and making effective oral arguments on an international competition level.

Why take this opportunity to participate in Vis Moot? Among the important benefits is their opportunity to join the Moot Alumni Association. All participants in both the Hong Kong and Vienna competitions are able to join the Vis Moot Alumni Association, which now has thousands of members. Through the association, team members can maintain their connections among their fellow competitors and the arbitrators, further enhancing their professional development and careers.

We’re confident that the Cincinnati legal community will enthusiastically support our “Cincinnati team” as they prepare for this rigorous challenge. By doing so, not only do we enhance ourselves, but also how the rest of the world views the tri-state and the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

1The CISG is a United Nations convention governing the cross-border sale of goods. The United States and 83 other countries have adopted and are parties to the CISG. Unless expressly disclaimed, the CISG automatically applies to contracts for the sale of goods where the parties to the contract (buyer and seller) are from different countries that are signatories to the CISG. For example, the CISG will apply, in lieu of the Uniform Commercial Code, to a contract specifying Ohio law because the CISG, as a convention to which the United States is a party, is part of Ohio law by virtue of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.