Willem C. Vis Moot
|Established||1993 (Vis) |
2003 (Vis East)
|Venue||Vienna (Vis) |
Hong Kong (Vis East)
|Subject matter||International commercial arbitration|
|Record participation||367 teams (2014, Vienna) |
128 teams (2017, Hong Kong)
|Most championships||University of Ottawa (3, Vienna) |
West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (2, Hong Kong)
|Website||https://vismoot.pace.edu/ (Vis) |
http://www.cisgmoot.org/ (Vis East)
The Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot or Vis Moot is an international moot court competition. Since 1994, it has been held annually in Vienna, Austria attracting more than 300 law schools from all around the world and spurring the creation of more than 20 pre-moots each year before the actual rounds are held in Vienna. It is the largest moot in the world for its field and is considered a grand slam or major moot. A sister moot, known as the Willem C. Vis (East) Moot, is held in Hong Kong just before the rounds in Vienna. It was established in 2003 and attracts around 150 teams every year, making it the second largest commercial arbitration moot and also a grand slam moot. It uses the same moot problem as the Vis Moot.
The objective of the Vis Moot is to foster study in the area of international commercial arbitration and encourage the resolution of business disputes by arbitration. The problem for the moot is always based on an international sales transaction subjected to the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, 1980 (also referred to as the CISG) and also involves procedural issues of arbitration. The moot consists of submitting written memoranda prior to the moot on designated dates for both sides of the dispute (Claimant and Respondent in legal terminology).
- 1 Organizer and sponsors
- 2 Structure of the competition
- 3 Moot problem
- 4 Awards in the Vis Moots
- 5 Prestige
- 6 Cultural phenomenon
- 7 Moot Alumni Association (MAA)
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Organizer and sponsors
About Willem C. Vis
The moot is named after Willem Cornelis Vis (1924–1993), a world-recognised expert in international commercial transactions and dispute settlement procedures. Vis was born in Utrecht and graduated from Leiden University and Nijmegen University in the Netherlands. He also read law, economics and philosophy at Magdalen College, Oxford.
Vis began to work for European co-operation in 1957 as a member of the Council of Europe Secretariat, in its human rights and legal affairs directorates, and later, in 1965, became Deputy Secretary-General of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) in Rome. In 1968 he moved to the United Nations Secretariat in New York, where he became Senior Legal Officer, then Chief of the International Trade Law Branch of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, and Secretary of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
Vis served as Executive Secretary of the Vienna Diplomatic Conference that created the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG). He helped craft the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules. He was Representative of the Netherlands to the UN Commission on International Trade Law and served as Chair of its Working Group on International Payments.
Vis served on the faculty of Pace University School of Law from 1980 until his death in 1993. At Pace, he continued to participate in the development of international commercial law, and was founding director of the Pace Institute of International Commercial Law.
Vis is survived by his wife, Faith Marion Stedman (maiden name), and their three children: David John Christian Vis (1958), Thecla Catherine Vis (1961) and Alix Elsebee Vis (1967).
The moot is organized by the Association for the Organization and Promotion of the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. The Director was Pace Law School's Eric E. Bergsten, Professor Emeritus of Pace University School of Law and a former Secretary of the UNCITRAL until his retirement in 2013 after the 20th annual moot. The current directors are Dr Christopher Kee, Mag. Patrizia Netal and Prof Dr Stefan Kroell.
The moot is sponsored by Pace University Law School, the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR)/The American Arbitration Association (AAA), the International Arbitral Centre of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA), CEPANI (Belgium), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Chicago International Dispute Resolution Association (CIDRA), the Chinese-European Arbitration Centre (CEAC), German Institution of Arbitration (DIS), the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC), the International Chamber of Commerce, JAMS, the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), the Moot Alumni Association (MAA), the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA), Swiss Chambers' Arbitration, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), and the University of Vienna Faculty of Law.
Vis Moot (East), Hong Kong
The Willem C. Vis (East) International Commercial Arbitration Moot is a sister moot to the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. The Vis East Moot takes place annually in Hong Kong. Founded in 2003 by Louise Barrington, a Canadian arbitrator based in Hong Kong, the Vis East was originally underwritten by the East Asia Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. The Vis East Moot uses the same moot problem and the rules are essentially the same as the Moot that takes place in Vienna. Nevertheless, they are two separate moots with separate registration, including registration fee, and separate winners - the Hong Kong Moot is not a regional elimination moot for the Vienna Moot. A law school can register for the Hong Kong Moot, the Vienna Moot or both. While the same students can be on both teams, a given student cannot argue in both the Hong Kong and the Vienna Moot in the same year.
The organization of the Vis East Moot lies in the hands of Director Louise Barrington and Alix Povey. The first local host of the Hong Kong Vis Moot was the City University of Hong Kong: the 1st–3rd Vis Moot (East) were held at City University's campus located in Kowloon Tong. The following two moots were hosted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong at its campus in Central. Since the 6th Vis Moot (East), however, the moot has moved back to City University of Hong Kong.
Structure of the competition
The Vis Moot consists of two parts: The preparation of two written memoranda in support of the claimant's and subsequently the respondent's position, and the oral hearings in Vienna or Hong Kong.
Preparation of the memoranda
The written phase of the Vis Moot commences on the first Friday in October when the Moot Problem, consisting of initial statements of claim and defence by the parties' attorneys as well as motions regarding procedural questions and exhibits, is distributed to the participating teams. According to an order by the Arbitral Tribunal both parties have to prepare a memorandum concerning factual and procedural issues.
First, the students are facing the challenge to slip into the role of the attorneys representing the claimant. The memorandum supporting the position of the claimant is due early in December. As the Moot proceeds, each team is sent a copy of the memorandum for claimant of one of the other teams in the Moot. The memorandum for respondent is prepared in response to the memorandum received, and is due in mid-February.
With the submission of the memorandum for respondent, the written phase of the Vis Moot is closed. Awards for the best memoranda in the Competition will not be presented to the teams before the last day of the oral arguments. As opposed to other international mooting competition, there is no selection of the teams who can proceed to the oral arguments based on the quality of their memoranda - every team that is participating in the Vis Moot gets to go to Vienna or Hong Kong.
As popularity for the Vis moots has continually grown, many schools now participate in sessions to practice the presentation of their argument, before ultimately travelling to Vienna or Hong Kong for the actual moot. Examples for past pre-moots are:
- The Dispute Resolution Society at Fordham University School of Law in New York City hosts an annual pre-moot; the 2010 edition brought together 43 teams from North America, South America, Asia, and Europe.
- The Chinese European Arbitration Centre hosted a 2013 pre-moot in Düsseldorf with 38 universities from Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific earning recognition as the largest event in Europe.
- In North Rhine-Westphalia, the subsection Rhine/Ruhr of the Young Arbitrators Circle of the DIS (German Institution of Arbitration), the Düsseldorf Moot Association and the Friends of the University of Düsseldorf Faculty of Law host a pre-moot event with 20 participating teams in Düsseldorf.
- In Serbia, since 2008, University of Belgrade's Faculty of Law hosts an annual pre-moot competition, better known as the Belgrade Open. In 2015, 64 teams from 32 countries participated.
- In Kuala Lumpur, the KLRCA (now AIAC) has been hosting a pre-moot since 2017. The 2018 edition saw 72 teams.
- The University of Amsterdam and several law firms host the International Premoot Amsterdam every year, which is traditionally the first pre-moot of the season.
The oral arguments
The oral arguments take place in Vienna and Hong Kong.
In Vienna, they begin every year with a formal Opening Reception on the Friday a week prior to Easter and close with the finals on Thursday of Holy Week. On Thursday night preceding the Opening, the Moot Alumni Association traditionally organizes its Welcoming Party for student participants, coaches and moot alumni.
The General Rounds of the oral arguments take place at the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna (the Juridicum) and several near-by law offices on Saturday through Tuesday. They start on Saturday morning, 8:30 a.m. (for those twenty-five or so teams who have caught the first "slot"), with every competing team arguing in four hearings (against four different teams, usually pairing a team from a civil law country with a team from a common law country) during the next four days. The General Rounds conclude on Tuesday afternoon with the announcement of the 64 highest-ranking teams which move on to the so-called elimination rounds. Entering elimination rounds is an achievement in itself, especially since the scoring in general rounds is not consistent across the board.
Elimination rounds subsequently take place on Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday, culminating in the final argument. The Moot closes with an awards banquet following the final argument.
Changing times, changing venues
The different occasions during the oral phase of the Vienna Moot have not always been held at the venues they take place at today. As the Vis Moot grew over the years, the space needed grew with it, and required a number of venue changes from year to year:
The Opening reception, for example, was held at the UNCITRAL headquarters during the first three Moots (1994–96), and subsequently moved to the building of the old Vienna Stock Exchange (the "Börse"), the Ronacher Theatre (until 2005) and then the Konzerthaus (13th Moot, 2006). In 2007, the opening reception was held at the Stadthalle (the Konzerthaus was apparently already booked), but it returned to the Konzerthaus in 2008.
From the 1st until the 3rd Vis Moot (1994–96), the oral hearings proper were held at the International Arbitral Centre of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (Wiedner Hauptstrasse 63 in Vienna's 4th district), thus taking place in the very rooms where ordinary arbitration hearings are held. Only from the 4th Moot (1997) onwards, the oral hearings took place at the Juridicum of the Faculty of Law, University of Vienna. During the more recent Moots, some of the hearings have been held at the offices of nearby law firms (since the Juridicum alone could no longer accommodate the growing number of hearings), namely at the offices of Dorda Brugger Jordis (since the 11th Moot 2004), DLA Piper Weiss-Tessbach (since the 16th Moot 2009) and Baker McKenzie: Diwok Hermann Petsche (since the 17th Moot 2010).
The location for the Finals remained at the Vienna International Arbitral Centre even longer; the last hearing of each year's Moot was held there from the 1st until the 6th Moot (1994–99). From the 7th until the 10th Moot (2000–03), the final hearing took place at the Festsaal of the Vienna City Hall (the Rathaus), and since the 11th Moot (2004) it has moved to the probably largest meeting room available in Vienna, at the Messe, where it is likely to remain.
The Awards Banquet following the Finals was held at the Piaristenkeller, a historic Viennese restaurant, during the 1st and 2nd Moots (1994–95), then at the Rathauskeller of the Vienna City Hall (at the 3rd Moot, 1996) and subsequently at the same building's Festsaal (4th until 10th Moot, 1997–2003). Since the 11th Moot (2004), it has been held at the Messe.
One location that has remained unchanged in its important role in the Moot (since the 4th Moot, when it was first used for Moot purposes) is the "Dachgeschoss". The term "Dachgeschoss" (German for "top floor"; literally "roof floor" (Dach = roof, Geschoss = floor)), which has become part of the international moot vocabulary, refers to the top floor (i.e. 7th floor) of the Juridicum in Vienna.
During the Moot week, it houses the Moot administration (where teams and arbitrators register, the arbitrators pick up and hand in their score sheets, and tickets for the awards banquet are available), the MAA (Moot Alumni Association) desk, displays by various sponsoring law publishers (often offering special "moot deals") and - maybe most importantly - chairs, tables and lounge areas for the participants and arbitrators to meet and linger.
The Dachgeschoss is where the hearing schedule for the day (listing the teams, the hearing room and the arbitrators) is posted every morning. During the elimination rounds, this is also the place where teams and arbitrators will gather after each round to learn with team will move on to the next round.
See also the social network: the Dachgeschoss
The arbitration clause in the contract, in the problem always provides that the dispute is to be decided by arbitration in "Vindobona, Danubia" under the institutional arbitration rules of one of the various arbitration institutions (like the ICC or the LCIA) which sponsors the moot.
|Moot||Year||Arbitration Rules featured in the Moot Problem|
|1st||1994||UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules|
|2nd||1995||UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules|
|3rd||1996||International Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association|
|4th||1997||Rules of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)|
|5th||1998||UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules|
|6th||1999||International Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association|
|7th||2000||Rules of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA)|
|8th||2001||Rules of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)|
|9th||2002||International Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association|
|10th||2003||Arbitration Rules of the German Institution of Arbitration (DIS)|
|11th||2004||Arbitration Rules of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC)|
|12th||2005||Swiss Rules of International Arbitration|
|13th||2006||Arbitration Rules of the Chicago International Dispute Resolution Association (CIDRA)|
|14th||2007||Arbitration Rules of The Court of International Commercial Arbitration, Romania|
|15th||2008||JAMS International Arbitration Rules|
|16th||2009||Arbitration Rules of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce|
|17th||2010||Arbitration Rules of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration|
|18th||2011||Arbitration Rules of the Chamber of National and International Arbitration of Milan|
|19th||2012||Arbitration Rules of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC)|
|20th||2013||Arbitration Rules of the Chinese European Arbitration Centre (CEAC)|
|21st||2014||Arbitration Rules of the Belgian Centre for Arbitration and Mediation (CEPANI)|
|22nd||2015||Rules of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce|
|23rd||2016||Arbitration Rules of the Vienna International Arbitration Center (VIAC)|
|24th||2017||Arbitration Rules of Arbitration Center of the Chamber of Commerce Brazil-Canada (CCBC)|
|25th||2018||UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules|
Danubia is a fictional country, which has enacted the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration as well as the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention), always featuring in moot problems as the seat of arbitration. "Vindobona" is surmised to be a reference to Vienna's old Latin nomenclature, when it was the last outpost of the Roman Empire.
Awards in the Vis Moots
The Vis Arbitral Moot in Vienna is considered one of the most prestigious moot court competitions in the world. The above list of sponsoring organizations coupled with the fact that the foremost scholars in the field of international sales law and international arbitration come to Vienna to act as arbitrators and judge the various teams in different stages of the competition clearly establish the high standing of this competition in the academic world. In fact, this competition has been referred to as the "Olympics of international trade law". It draws participation from many law schools from all over the world.
In 1994, when the first Moot was held, 11 teams took part. Since then, the field has grown rapidly: The 20th Moot, held in 2013, saw more than 290 teams from 67 countries enter the competition. In most law schools, being selected as a team member is in itself a sign of excellence.
Only six universities have participated in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot every year since the Inaugural Moot held in 1994: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (Germany), Columbia University (United States), Deakin University (Australia), University of Lapland (Finland), Pace University (United States), and Universidad Panamericana (Mexico).
The Vis Moot's popularity has grown rapidly over the last decade of its existence. The moot gives an opportunity to law students to interact with law students from other countries and other cultures thereby equipping them with a multicultural approach which is undoubtedly an asset in international arbitrations as well as one of the aims of this competition. The other attraction of the competition are the parties that are organised by the Moot Alumni Association (MAA), which provide the students an opportunity to unwind after months of rigorous preparation for the moot. The MAA hosts a welcoming party a day before the Official Opening Reception as well as a farewell party a day before the finals and the awards banquet.
Even when there are no parties, participants go out to a bar to drink and meet other participants. The venue that has traditionally been considered to be the pub for the Moot was the Ma Pitom situated in the Bermudadreieck, the Bermuda triangle, as the Viennese call their pub and party district. During the 4th Vis Moot (held in 1997), it evolved into the central night-time meeting point for Moot participants, and was home to many a moot celebration. In August 2006, however, the owner of the Ma Pitom closed the bar and sold the place, so an era of Moot partying had come to an end. During the 14th-16th Vis Moots (2007–09), the Aux Gazelles in the Museumsquartier functioned as the MAA Moot Bar. The 17th Vis Moot 2010 saw a new venue, the Ost-Klub. In 2017, for the 24th Vis Moot the club returned to "'Aux Gazelles'".
The backdrop of the beautiful city of Vienna also gives participating students the opportunity to explore the rich European history and famous sights of Vienna.
The audience during the opening ceremonies for the 13th Vis Moot 2006 was able to witness an unexpected cultural phenomenon when Professor Harry Flechtner, one of the leading U.S. scholars on the CISG, took the stage and performed two country-style songs specifically written for this purpose, the "CISG Song" and (as an encore) the "Mootie Blues". He repeated the successful performance during the 14th Vis Moot 2007 and the 15th Vis Moot 2008 (adding a song inspired by that year's Moot Problem, titled '"The Ballad of Blue Hills 2005").
Some of the Mootie Blues' lyrics - notably "And since you hadn't had a date since stars first shone in the night above / That's when you realized that you're in the moot for love" - hint at a particular cultural phenomenon which has been part of the Vis Moot experience since the early years. The CISG's overall aim, as expressed in its preamble - "promoting friendly relations among States" - is often pursued on a personal level in Vienna and Hong Kong, resulting in a surprising number of friendly relations indeed between individuals participating in the Moot. And, despite the old Moot proverb "What happens in Vienna stays in Vienna", time has shown that quite often Vienna (or, more recently, Hong Kong) happens to be only the beginning: Over the years, numerous Moot participants have moved to a foreign country as a result of a friendly relationship that had been established during the Moot week, and even a quite impressive number of Moot-induced marriages have been celebrated (between participants from different teams, and also between participants and arbitrators). Omnia vincit amor ("love conquers all")!
Moot Alumni Association (MAA)
The Moot Alumni Association (MAA) is the alumni association of both the Willem C. Vis Moot International Commercial Arbitration Moot (the Vienna Moot) and the Willem C. Vis Moot (East) International Commercial Arbitration Moot (the Hong Kong Moot). It was founded in 1996 in the aftermath of the 3rd Willem C. Vis Moot, and is a non-profit association registered under Austrian law with its seat in Vienna.
With a 650-strong membership, the MAA is composed of students as well as distinguished academics and practitioners, and internationally renowned arbitrators and practitioners. The MAA's projects include the publication of the Vindobona Journal of International Commercial Law and Arbitration, facilitating internships and employment related to these areas of law, a case translation program and collaboration with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the Institute of International Commercial Law, Pace Law School.
The MAA's activities during the Willem C. Vis Moots include sponsoring and organising social events for Vis Moot participants, notably the MAA Welcome Party on the night before the Opening Receptions of the Vienna and the Hong Kong Moots. The MAA also regularly organises specialised conferences during the Vienna Moot, such as “The Challenging World of Arbitration” (2001) in cooperation with ICCA and “Becoming e-legal” (2002) in cooperation with VIAC, and the annual “Generations in Arbitration.”
Since 2009, the MAA has annually organized the "Annual MAA Peter Schlechtriem CISG Conference". The location of the conferences alternates between Vienna (where it is held immediately preceding the Willem C. Vis Moot) and Hong Kong (preceding the Willem C. Vis (East) Moot).
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