Participant vs. Coach — The Vis Moot Court

Source: Unsplash pic via Melinda Gimpel
Source: Unsplash pic via Melinda Gimpel

he Vis Moot Court is a great opportunity to find out how the reality of life as a lawyer looks like. Goel Damkani, currently pursuing his Master of Laws at the University of Miami School of Law, Florida, USA and I, Christina Pletowski, both participated the Vis Moot Court. In addition, Goel has been coaching his university’s team last year — this made me curious and I wanted to know which position (participant or coach) taught him more and what the exact differences were.

The annual Vis Arbitral Moot attracts over 300 participating universities from around the world and is judged by some of the world’s preeminent arbitrators, litigators, judges, and international law scholars. The focus of this particular Moot Court is on international commercial law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the International Sale of Goods 1985 (CISG) and arbitration for resolution of international business disputes. The first phase of the competition is the preparation of written submissions for each claimant and respondent, followed by the hearing of oral arguments based upon the memoranda in front of panels of arbitrators in a case-study based arbitration.[1]

According to Goel, the biggest difference between being a participant and a coach is the individual versus the group dynamic. As a participant you are focussed more on a narrow part of the case as well as a more narrow set of issues. You work closely with the team but also for yourself. As a coach, you have to work with the entire team, keep it together and make sure everyone is working collectively and everything is running smoothly.

This means as a coach you have the bigger overview from the very beginning on, whereas as a team member or also called “Mootie“, you are specified on the task given individually. Then, toward the beginning of the oral phase, — practicing the pleading — each member has detailed knowledge of every issue.

Surprisingly, as a coach, Goel learned more about the overall legal framework and understood from a bird’s eye view how different aspects fit together.

When being in the position of coaching the team, there is no need to know every issue in depth but enough to be knowledgeable and to be able to challenge the Mooties in order to prepare them for the upcoming competitions. This means you always need to be one step ahead — as a coach you need to know exactly what kind of questions to ask during a pleading — the further you come, the hypothetical the questions.

Coaching does not only mean keeping the team together and being the daily motivator, but conveying the whole: teaching how to write memoranda, to organise and structure an argument, to do research and how to develop a convincing pleading.

Furthermore, as a coach you need to guide the team members to the right sources or context in discussions. Therefore, background knowledge of arbitration and UN Trade Law is required, so you as a coach are able to explain the members relevant areas such as how to enforce awards, what the Model Law or the New York Convention is and how to do legal writing within the field of contract law.

For us both the Vis Moot Court has been a very unique experience and a great opportunity to learn more about the legal world of contracts and gain expert knowledge in legal wiring, pleading and developing skills you need for being a successful lawyer.

The views in these piece are solely those of Christina Pletowski and Goel Damkani. Numbers, facts and statistics are taken from the sources listed below.

[1] Association for the Organisation and Promotion of the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, “About the Moot”, 2020, https://vismoot.pace.edu/site/about-the-moot (accessed February 1, 2020).

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Christina Pletowski

Christina Pletowski

B.A. at LMU/NKU — Law student based in Germany, interested in global politics and economy. Exploring the future, trying to understand what’s going to be next.