Guest blog by: Ben Hines, Irene Ma, Damian Young (USyd), Isabella Keith (ANU) and Orian Ibraheim (Monash), with James Fisher (coach, ANU)
Competing in the INC Negotiation and Arbitration Competition in Tokyo was a fantastic experience for us all, substantially developing a variety of our skills in alternative dispute resolution and opening our eyes to the possibilities that exist in Japan.
From the outset, the intense preparation began even before the problem question was released. As members of Team Australia supported by the cross-institutional Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), we came together from a number of the country’s leading law schools to meet like-minded students and our fantastic coach, James. The intensity of our preparation was never a burden, and the fascinating subject matter and intellectually stimulating training developed our skillsets and collective ability to work effectively as a team unit. In addition to the competition itself, this process was invaluable to us all.
Interestingly, we discovered that INC is more than just a mooting competition: it is unique and a fantastic experience in so many ways. First, unlike other mooting competitions where you sign up for either arbitration or negotiation, INC is a competition that really tests all of your skills. Across the two rounds, both arbitration and negotiation, we were required to train for these two very different skillsets, gaining knowledge and insights that will undoubtedly benefit us all in the future. It is also not a one-off competition, and throughout our experiences with INC alumni we learned that by competing for Team Australia you really do join an extensive and amazing network comprised of teams from years past. Every alum we met was incredibly friendly and happy to give back. The team was lucky enough to visit the offices of several leading international law firms, where Team Australia alums offered their insight and experiences working in Japan and provided their office space for our preparation efforts.
In Japan, we were lucky enough to gain the unique cultural exposure that only venturing to the country itself could bring. James, a verified local after his decade in Tokyo, showed us the sides of Tokyo that might be missed by tourists alone. But our experience didn’t finish there. Of course, the INC trip to Tokyo is very different from the usual trip of a tourist. Instead of going to Disneyland (despite our year’s question centring around a theme park) or Mount Fuji, we visited different law firm offices, including Herbert Smith Freehills and Linklaters, and the classrooms at Sophia University where we spent our time in intense preparation for the competition.
The competition itself lasted across two days and was conducted in an order that was carefully considered by the competition organisers – arbitration on the first day, and negotiation on the second day. According to the steering committee, this is because they wished to encourage a collaborative and intercollegiate approach to future disputes, and by practicing both forms of resolution the legal minds of the future will be well-equipped. Both rounds ran for approximately 4 hours, though the arbitration round ran even longer given that the process was entirely controlled by the Tribunal. This was a huge test of physical and mental endurance, and if you decide to compete in the future, we will strongly suggest you bring some food so you can recharge during the break!
We were lucky enough to compete against Chuo University and Sophia University across our two hard-fought yet collegial rounds. The quality of the competition was exceptionally high, which put our skills to the test in order to achieve the best results we could. Thankfully, given our extensive preparation efforts, we were able to face any challenge thrown at us. After our round, both opposing teams were incredibly kind, and we made new friends that we are excited to stay in contact with!
Sitting in the final closing ceremony, we were happy to learn our hard work had paid off, and not only had we won the Best English Negotiation and second in English Arbitration by a mere one point but had come second overall in the competition (by a similarly minor margin)!
We will never forget the experience, and we encourage anybody interested to apply – you certainly won’t regret it.
Postscript by James Fisher (Lecturer @ ANU, ANJeL co-convenor for teaching and learning):
As the team’s coach, it was a pleasure and privilege to witness their skills develop and watch their stunning performances at the competition in Tokyo. They definitely demonstrated the high quality of the emerging jurists at Australia’s top law schools. Their personal success, the growing and supportive alumni community they have joined, and the lessons they will apply to their future studies and careers prove the enduring value of the collaborative inter-varsity project that is INC Team Australia, supported by the Australian Network for Japanese Law. I hope Ben, Irene, Damian (USyd), Isabella (ANU) and Orian (Monash) are as proud of themselves as we are of them!