Are you a common law lawyer? The Vis Moot needs you!

Are you a common law lawyer? The Vis Moot needs you!

The viennaannual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot (the Moot) is the most prestigious competition of its kind.

For the unacquainted, the Moot is an international arbitration mooting competition centred on an international sale of goods problem and conducted in accordance with the rules of an arbitral institution (this year, the ICC Rules). The Moot attracts hundreds of teams from universities across the globe and culminates in oral argument before volunteer arbitrators in Vienna, Austria (there is also a sister ‘East’ moot that takes place in Hong Kong).

For students of international commercial law, the potential benefits of participating in the Moot are many: in-depth exposure to international arbitration law and procedure; honing skills that will be useful in practice; participation in rigorous academic debate; building confidence and developing advocacy skills; extensive networking opportunities; a chance to travel and meet lawyers and law students from across the world; exposure to different legal traditions; gaining valuable insights into post-graduate opportunities (including potential recruiters); and, forging friendships and contacts that may last a career or even a lifetime.

The good news for the future of international arbitration is that the Moot remains incredibly popular, but, according to current Moot co-director* Prof. Dr. Stefan Kroell, there is room for improvement.

An arbitrator imbalance?

An arbitration mooting competition would be lost without its arbitrators and the Moot is heavily reliant on volunteers taking time away from their busy legal practices. Fortunately, there hasn’t yet been a shortage of able and willing arbitrator volunteers. Nevertheless, within the pool of Moot arbitrators there are far fewer representatives of common law jurisdictions (such as England and Wales or the USA) as opposed to civil law jurisdictions (such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria).

Why is this case? Is it the closer proximity of Vienna to the civil law, German-speaking legal communities? Are those same communities more alert to the fact that the Moot offers a rich pool of potential recruits?

Prof. Kroell comments that:

‘At the last moot only about 25% of arbitrators come from Common Law jurisdictions.  This is lower than we would like, and indeed is lower than the percentage of teams from Common Law jurisdictions – 35%.  Geographical proximity may be a factor, with the exception of the UK the distance of time involved in travelling may deter some.  However, there is also perhaps an awareness and familiarity factor, and that is certainly something we are hoping to address.’

To help address this imbalance, and hopefully encourage more volunteers from the common law tradition, it is worth considering the significant benefits of being involved. I’d like to thank Dr Mariel Dimsey, associate based in Cleary Gottlieb’s Cologne office, for her assistance in extolling the virtues of volunteering as a Moot arbitrator.

The benefits include:

Networking gold

Achieving success in the field of international arbitration, as a lawyer and as an arbitrator, is heavily dependent on making and maintaining professional connections. It is in the nature of the beast. Arbitrator and counsel appointments are often driven by a network of interconnected recommendations and the Moot offers an excellent opportunity to meet international arbitration lawyers from around the globe.

Indeed, it is not unheard of for practitioners to schedule hearings in Vienna around the time of the Moot to take advantage of this rare culmination of arbitration practitioners in the same place at the same time. Attending the Moot can change the course of a career.

Experience of acting as an arbitrator and that crucial first appointment

Volunteering as a Moot arbitrator provides invaluable practical experience before taking on the real thing. It also looks good when it comes to obtaining that important first appointment as an arbitrator. Also, many recommendations for arbitral appointments are known to arise out of connections made at the Moot.

Boosting firm profile before some of the world’s future outstanding lawyers

Being involved in the Vis Moot as an arbitrator is a great way to highlight the international arbitration work of your firm to students.

Recruitment opportunities

Linked to the benefit above, the Moot attracts exceptionally able law students from around the world, and therefore is an excellent opportunity to spot future legal talent.

Just doing something different

It is fun, interesting, rewarding and the oral argument phase of the competition takes place in the beautiful city of Vienna. As an overall experience, it is worth the time sacrifice involved.


Good. You can register as a Moot arbitrator here.

If you want more information, please contact Prof. Dr. Stefan Kroell, Dr. Christopher Kee  or Mag. Patrizia Netal.

Find more details on the Vis Moot website.

*The other co-directors are Dr. Christopher Kee and Mag. Patrizia Netal.

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About the author:

Barry specialises in international arbitration and commercial litigation. He trained and practised at Jones Day before joining Pinsent Masons. At LexisNexis, Barry is Head of Arbitration and Head of the Lexis®PSL Dispute Resolution Group.

In practice, Barry’s work included commercial, aviation and technology arbitrations pursuant to international arbitral rules, involving UK and international clients. He also has a background in general commercial, civil fraud and IT litigation, including experience before the High Court. While in private practice, Barry worked with a broad range of clients from the private and public sectors.

At LexisNexis, when not focused on the strategic development and operational requirements of the Dispute Resolution Group, Barry’s content work focuses on the law and practice of international commercial arbitration and investment treaty arbitration. In addition to his work for Lexis®PSL, Barry contributes to the LexisNexis Dispute Resolution Blog and New Law Journal on litigation and arbitration matters