International moot court team with Paula Arias (middle)
Home to the only International Moot Court Program in the United States, Miami Law has long had an outsized presence in the world’s many moot competitions, often succeeding against some of the top schools in the globe.
Recently, Miami Law’s international moot court team of Yesenia Alfonso of Miami, Camilo Fernandez of Colombia, Andres Caldera of Nicaragua, and Belemir Demirbag of Turkey came in second place in the 2021 Foreign Direct Investment Moot. All students on the team are currently pursuing a joint J.D./LL.M. in the school’s White & Case International Arbitration Program.
The global finals were held virtually in Seoul, South Korea, from October 27 to November 3. This marked the first time Miami Law advanced to the finals in the competition in a crowded field of 80 competitors.
Additionally, Alfonso was assessed by an independent panel of arbitrators to have been the best advocate in the final rounds, ahead of first-place winners Symbiosis Law School of Pune, India, whose victory was described by competitions organizers as a “close match.”
“Taking part in FDI Moot 2021 has been one of the highlights of my time at Miami Law,” said Alfonso, who also earned a Bachelor of Law from Queen Mary University of London. “Without a doubt, being a part of the International Moot Court program changed my trajectory at Miami Law for the better, and I am forever grateful to Professor Arias and the program for supporting us and giving us incredible opportunities to become better advocates.”
Paula Arias is the director of IMCP and a lecturer-in-law at Miami Law. A practicing attorney in both the U.S. and her native Colombia, she is known for her hands-on approach to prepping each team, including providing individualized coaching.
“It was a long journey that was supported greatly by IMCP alumni during the months of preparation,” said Arias, who helped establish IMCP over a decade ago to teach oral and written advocacy skills. “This is a truly rewarding experience due to the UM community that IMCP has created.”
In fact, helping coach the team was IMCP alumnus Michael Rodriguez, J.D./LL.M. ’17, who for four years has practiced investment arbitration in Washington, D.C. Serving as assistant coach was Barış Han Özkan, a Turkish attorney, also an LL.M. candidate in the International Arbitration Program, who shared “from the beginning, we didn’t agree on which side had a better case. Each team member was a strong advocate for the parties for different reasons, which helped us advance our arguments to a point where the decision would be in one part's favor with a small margin.”
This was only the second time that the FDI Moot was conducted virtually, and because the team could not travel to Seoul, they had to start most of their final rounds as early as 4:00 a.m. This was on top of nearly eight months of intense preparation, including back-to-back practice rounds, late-night brief-drafting, and pre-moots on many early weekend mornings.
The FDI Moot is the world’s leading moot court competition on investor-state disputes, which constitute a rapidly growing area of law. Students are given a hypothetical case that requires extensive knowledge of international dispute resolution, business law, treaty law, corporate structures, and more. The competition spans approximately six months each year in two phases, written memorials for claimant and respondent and the hearing of oral arguments within regional or national rounds, including in Seoul, Korea; New Delhi, India; and Nairobi, Kenya. There are also a series of pre-moots in Budapest, Hungary; St Petersburg, Russia; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Warsaw, Poland, allowing students to polish their arguments in a competitive and high-pressure setting.
The rise of globalization and international investment has made the FDI Moot of considerable interest to attorneys, arbitrators, and legal scholars worldwide, putting Miami Law front and center to the international legal community. Most importantly, it gives students a chance to gain valuable insight into increasingly relevant legal fields and to gain crucial skills along the way.
“I strongly encourage students to participate in this challenging yet rewarding journey,” said Demirbag.