This past academic year I had the opportunity to help coach the University of Ottawa’s Willem C. Vis international commercial arbitration moot team. The team recently returned from the 18th annual moot in Vienna, Austria as world champions. Held every year in the week before Easter, the Vis moot attracts more than 250 universities from 65-plus countries and is intended to be an educational experience for students centring around issues of arbitral procedure and an international business dispute.
The University of Ottawa’s victory marks only the second time a Canadian university has won the Vis. The first was Osgoode Hall Law School in 2004. The Vis moot attracts practitioners, authors, and scholars who have written and been part of the decisions all the teams become familiar with during the course of their preparations. For the students, it is a great experience not only to meet so many recognizable figures of the international arbitration community, but to have their knowledge tested by them as arbitrators.
Our team was made up of five students from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law: Sherif Foda, Etai Hilzenrat, Diane Laranja, Marc McLaren-Caux, and Jonathan O’Hara. Professor Anthony Daimsis and myself were the coaches and we worked with the team for more than six months to get it ready.
The team’s tireless work ethic bore its catch phrase: “Luck is for those who sleep!”
The team won each of its elimination rounds unanimously. Along the way, it went up against teams from Brazil, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, New Zealand, Tunisia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the finals, the team faced the University of Montevideo from Uruguay. It was a well-fought round in front of hundreds of spectators. The team’s turning point, however, was in the third round of eliminations against the University of Wellington, which had won the moot just two years earlier. The round was the highest calibre round I had ever seen at the Vis and our team’s hard work and dedication truly paid off.
Having been a participant in the 16th Vis moot — and coach with the University of Ottawa team for the past two years — I’ve seen how the Vis offers a truly unique experience for its participants. It leaves a lasting impression that is shown by the great number of participants who return to Vienna to act as arbitrators. Interest in international arbitration is clearly growing. And, as the Vis moot demonstrates, it is a practice area that knows no borders.
John Siwiec is a student at law in the Ottawa office of Ogilvy Renault LLP.