July 11, 2013
When Pitt Law 3L Brian Fraile traveled to Turkey in October to train members of the Baghdad Vis Moot team, he met Ali Hayder, a young aspiring lawyer with a shared interest in computer programming and sports. However, unlike Fraile, Hayder has been unable to play sports regularly because he has spent most of his youth confined indoors in war-torn Iraq. The annual William C. Vis International Arbitration Moot competition in Vienna is an opportunity for students like Hayder to travel, learn and compete in the world’s largest arbitration moot competition. It’s also an opportunity for Pitt Law students like Fraile to become better competitors by training and preparing international students in arbitration law.
Fraile said it was remarkable how dedicated and driven the students from the Middle Eastern teams were.
“In Istanbul we had to beg the Iraqi students to put down their work and go sightseeing with us, despite the fact that this was the first time many of them had ever had the opportunity to leave Baghdad,” he said.
For the last seven years Professor Ronald Brand, through the Center for International Legal Education (CILE), has worked with the U.S. Department of Commerce Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) to use the Vis Moot competition as a platform for developing curriculum in international commercial law and arbitration at various Middle Eastern law schools.
The annual Vis Moot competition in Vienna, which was held in March this past year, is analogous to a World Cup for future arbitration lawyers. The competition brings together students from nearly 300 schools and over 60 countries to Austria to compete in simulated commercial arbitration cases in front of a prestigious panel of arbitrators. Relationships are built and sustained; different cultures cross to form lasting relationships in the academic and legal world. It’s a competition that’s as much about legal rigor as it is about cultural exchange.
Fraile said the work started in October when the Vis Moot problem was officially released. What followed were weeks of traveling to Turkey to personally train the Baghdad team, then months of emails and video chats providing more training on key international arbitration concepts such as the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG), research methods and feedback with the drafting of lengthy legal memoranda.
“Providing such in-depth support to students we had never met and were eight time zones away presented some obvious logistical problems,” Fraile said. “The language barrier was never an issue because of the students’ incredible English skills. The students were understanding of the difficulties and were always willing to ask questions when they needed guidance.”
Ronald Brand talks to students at the Middle East Vis Pre-Moot in Abu Dhabi.
This past February, the teams from seven Middle Eastern law schools participated in the third annual Willem C. Vis Middle East International Commercial Arbitration Pre-Moot in Abu Dhabi, UAE in anticipation for Vienna. These schools included the University of Baghdad (Iraq), the University of Bahrain, Dar Al Hekma School of Law & Diplomacy (Saudi Arabia), the Faculty of Legal, Political and Social Sciences of Tunis, the University of Jordan, Sultan Qaboos University (Oman), and United Arab Emirates University. Fraile, along with Professor Brand and 3L students Amelia Brett and Eryn Correa provided oral argument training and helped administer the pre-moot competition.
Fraile said the combination of his own academics, all the traveling, training and eventual competitions has overall been an extremely enriching experience.
“The extensive level of research necessary for such an endeavor certainly added the stresses of a maximum course load,” Fraile said. “But my experiences through three unforgettable trips were more than enough to make those late nights in Barco [Law Building] worthwhile.”