International Arbitration Students Compete in Vis Pre-Moot in Brazil


James Chang

James Chang, a 30-year-old Angeleno, can size up a person. In high school, he worked on statistics for his high school’s basketball team. While attending the University of California, Los Angeles, he researched potential recruits for UCLA’s sports teams.

Now, the International Arbitration LL.M. student is using his skills to prepare for the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court Competition as part of Miami Law's International Moot Court Program. He travels to Curitiba, Brazil this week for a regional pre-moot competition, with Sandra Friedrich, one of the coaches for Miami Law’s Vis Moot team  and Director of the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M. Program , as well as third-year David Archer. Fellow team members Michael Lorigas, International Arbitration J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree  student, and Devon Arnold, 3L, who just returned from another pre-moot  at Fordham Law in New York City, will sit this one out.

“I am really looking forward to the pre-Moot in Brazil,” Chang says. “My aunt is from Brazil, and it will be my first time visiting the country. The chance to compete in the Vis Moot was one of the main reasons why I came to UM. The Vis Moot is the World Cup of mooting competitions and extremely well-known in the international arbitration community. We have been working very hard with Professors Friedrich, Arias, and Rooney and our other coaches to prepare. The Pre-Moot in Curitiba will be a good opportunity to practice our arguments and to meet other students who have been going through the same experiences in working with the Vis problem over the last five months.”

In Curitiba, Chang and Archer will be participating in the VIII Curitiba Pre-Moot Competition at Universidade Positivo from March 4-5, 2016.  It is likely that the Miami Law duo will be the only U.S. team, and will be competing with dozens of teams from Latin America.

The Curitiba Pre-Moot is one of the most important pre-moots in Latin America and voted one of the best pre-moots overall in previous years. The competition aims to offer a realistic impression of the pleadings in the Vis Moot, which will take place in Vienna, Austria the third week in March.

"The Vis Moot allows students to gain practical experience in a mock arbitration setting," Friedrich says. "This authentic exercise requires students to act as advocates, analyzing and arguing both sides of a hypothetical legal dispute, using procedures modeled after those employed before international arbitration tribunals. This year’s Vis problem, for the first time, focuses on complex issues of document production as well as damages instead of general questions of contract formation and performance.”

"James’s analytical skills are proving highly valuable in developing the complex damages calculations necessary to present a compelling argument," she says. “And David skillfully tackled complicated issues of document production, confidentiality, and privilege in international arbitration proceedings and developed persuasive arguments for both sides.”

The Vis Moot is the largest international arbitration moot in the world with student teams from over 300 law schools and over 60 countries competing. Leading arbitration counsel, arbitrators, and academics will serve as coaches and judges. The Vis Moot has been held annually in Vienna, Austria since 1994.  

The White & Case International Arbitration LL.M. Program, under the leadership of Jan Paulsson, holder of the Michael Klein Distinguished Scholar Chair, provides a unique individualized educational opportunity for a small group of top quality students from a range of countries, wishing to acquire an in-depth grounding in the field of international arbitration as a platform for a successful career. The program - the only one of its kind in the United States - is open to U.S. and foreign-trained law graduates, and is ideal for newcomers to the field or experienced practitioners looking to enrich their skills and knowledge.

For Chang, the experiences are all paving the path to his future. He would like to join an international arbitration firm in Singapore or Hong Kong. It is far from researching high school athletes, many who would go on to professional sports teams or the Olympics, but it does utilize Chang's strengths of research and writing. And, besides, he can still follow his favorite teams through the internet.