There were several ground-breaking ‘firsts’ for the 2020 Vis East Moot.
It was the first virtual moot competition – the Vis East Moot was rebranded as the Virtual Vis East and quickly referred to as the ‘VVE’ among teams and arbitrators this year. It was an innovative large scale online international arbitration moot competition – the first of its kind.
Another first – and one that will be equally celebrated by many who champion women and diversity in international dispute resolution – is that the three members of the arbitral tribunal that presided over the final argument in the Virtual Vis East competition were ALL WOMEN.
The arbitral tribunal was chaired by LCIA Court President and arbitrator Paula Hodges QC of Herbert Smith Freehills. The co-arbitrators were Sabine Stricker-Keller, who founded the first European law office in China, and Winnie Tam SC of Des Voeux Chambers in Hong Kong. All three arbitrators participated from their respective homes via the VVE online platform.
The VVE finals began and ended with comments from Hong Kong’s Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng SC, transmitted live from her home via the VVE online platform.
For many years, ArbitralWomen co-founder and leading arbitrator Louise Barrington has led the organisation of the Vis East Moot that usually takes place in-person in Hong Kong. Louise Barrington runs the Vis East Moot together with Alix Povey and Maricel Somerville.
This year, the 17th Vis East and first Virtual Vis Moot was a phenomenal success involving more than 70 teams and approximately 250 arbitrators participating from all over the globe via the VVE online platform. The Chinese University of Hong Kong emerged victorious with the Eric Bergsten Award, with second place going to the University of São Paulo Largo San Francisco.
The organising team was assisted by expert IT volunteers from eBRAM, a Hong Kong start-up that is developing an online dispute resolution platform to support business-to-business transactions in the APEC region. They used Microsoft Teams as the VVE online platform for more than 150 online moot hearings held over the past week. Each individual hearing was monitored by a host manager who assisted the arbitrators and teams, as many were using the platform for the very first time.
Louise Barrington described the move to a totally virtual platform as requiring “a huge leap of faith” from teams and arbitrators – but she was determined to make it work, given that the only alternative was to cancel the moot and disappoint hundreds of students who had been working for months to prepare for the competition.
The organisers of the VVE are thrilled with its success and proud to have achieved this important ‘first’ in international arbitration.
“Thanks to the Virtual Vis East, there are now hundreds more who are capable of running an online hearing and confident enough to do it in real life,” commented Louise Barrington. The implications of this achievement are amazing.
Congratulations and thanks to all involved in making this history-making virtual moot competition possible.
Meanwhile, stay tuned to find out if the 17th Vis East Moot will convene for in-person hearings in late 2020 and if so, the scope of that in-person Vis Moot competition.
Submitted by Dana MacGrath, ArbitralWomen President and Investment Manager and Legal Counsel at Omni Bridgeway