Left to right: ACU mooting team Kaspars Walker, Noah Korkolis, coach Angus Macinnis, Andrea Anastasi and Emily Ginis.
The world’s largest international law moot was forced to make a rapid pivot into online courtrooms in April, as the COVID-19 pandemic made travel by international teams impossible.
University law students travel from around the world each year to compete at the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna. This year would have seen the 27th instalment of the prestigious moot, at which Australian law students are regularly competitive.
A team of four Australian students from Thomas More Law School at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) were due to moot in the competition in the first week of April, but their plans changed rapidly when borders closed, and international travel was banned. The entire competition was instead held over videoconference, reflecting moves by the broader legal profession to take hearings online.
Thomas More mooting coach, Angus Macinnis, who is a Sydney-based lawyer and the Director of Dispute Resolution at StevensVuaran lawyers, said his team’s preparation had to adjust for the “new normal” of online advocacy.
There’s a lot of non-verbal communication in advocacy, and not all of that translates on the smoothest of internet connections; never mind what gets lost in translation when the line is ‘sorry, what’s that? You just broke up there for a bit’.
Angus Macinnis, coach ACU mooting team
Macinnis said it was an interesting learning experience for both him and the students, and that, given the future of online and virtual work for lawyers, it may lead to future moots being held virtually on purpose.
“I think that at ACU, online mooting will certainly become a regular thing, because we are one law school spread across two campuses [North Sydney and Melbourne] with law to also be taught from our Blacktown and Brisbane campuses from next year.
“I suspect that the Australian intervarsity competitions which run in the second half of this year will also go online, but I’m not sure they will stay there when the current clouds lift. There’s a lot of non-verbal communication in advocacy, and not all of that translates on the smoothest of internet connections; never mind what gets lost in translation when the line is ‘sorry, what’s that? You just broke up there for a bit’.”