Vis Moot Team Brings Home Honors from Vienna

George Mason University School of Law recently sent a team of five law students to compete in the 20th Annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna, Austria. The Vis Moot was started in 1994 by the United Nations Commission on Trade Law (UNCITRAL) as an educational competition to promote understanding of international commercial law. It has grown to be one of the most prestigious moots in the world, considered to be the “Olympics of international trade law.” 

Of the nearly 300 teams competing in this year's moot, George Mason advanced, tying for ninth place overall in the competition for the second year in a row, and all of the team members eligible to receive individual recognition did so. Matt Brown (3L), Jonathan Rhodes (3L), and Daniel Rodriguez (3L) all received Honorable Mentions for Best Individual Oralist. More than 1,800 students from 67 countries competed in this year's competition, among whom only 71 students  (roughly 4%) received such a distinction. George Mason was one of only five schools to have all three of its eligible students achieve individual recognition.

Brown, Rhodes, and Rodriguez argued alongside fellow teammates Spencer Nelson (3L) and Mark Probasco (3L) in the general rounds. Due to the rules of the competition, Nelson and Probasco were not eligible to compete for individual recognition, yet remained essential to the team's ultimate success.

The Vis Moot is structured by having each team compete in four general rounds. After those rounds, the top 64 of the 290 participating teams are selected to advance into a single-elimination bracket system.

As a team, George Mason repeated the success of its inaugural appearance at last year's competition. Once again, Mason advanced to the round of 64, where it defeated Jagiellonian University (Poland) to continue in the round of 32. The team then faced The University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), which it defeated by unanimous decision of the judges to again find itself in the round of 16. However, with several team members battling the onset of cold symptoms, George Mason was narrowly defeated in a 2-1 vote by Bucerius Law School (Germany).

In preparation for such a large competition, many schools compete and practice in “pre-moots” organized around the world. George Mason had the privilege to participate in the D.C. Pre-Moot held at DLA Piper's offices downtown, as well at the Central European Pre-Moot held in Budapest, Hungary. At the Budapest Pre-Moot, George Mason ranked second overall among the forty teams that participated, outranked only by the City University of Hong Kong.

City University of Hong Kong would go on to achieve success as the champions of the entire Vis Moot in Vienna, defeating Monash University (Australia) in the final round.

Through the course of arguments in the pre-moots and in the Vis Moot itself, the George Mason team competed against 14 different teams from 12 different countries: The United States, Lebanon, The Netherlands, France, Russia, Poland, Indonesia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Paraguay, and Argentina.

While the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society was able to send only five members overseas for the competition, students Tiago Bezerra (3L), Michelle Caton (2L), Anthony Kanakis (3L), Xin Nie (3L), Chenenye Okafor (2L), Michael Volz (2L) also participated as team members in the drafting of the two briefs for the event.

While the George Mason team traveled on its own to the competition in Budapest, it was accompanied in Vienna by its three dedicated coaches, adjunct professors Jack Tieder, Shelly Ewald, and Kathy Barnes, from the firm Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald, L.L.P.