GULFPORT – It was March Madness of a different flavor recently when an arbitration team from Stetson University College of Law took home multiple awards at the 23rd annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration moot competition in Vienna, Austria last month.
Comprising the Stetson Vis International Commercial Arbitration team were Sadiya Hashem, Leon Innerkofler, Taylor Ryan, Brien Squires, Kaelyn Steinkraus and Jonathan Diamond serving as student coach and team member.
Stetson received two honorable mention awards, one for the Respondent’s Memorandum and one for Best Oralist. The latter is becoming a tradition with Stetson, marking the second year in a row the school was recognized with an honorable mention for Best Oralist.
To qualify for the Vienna event, Stetson headed to Miami in February where it represented well, placing first in the pre-moot. Associate Dean of Student Engagement and Professor of Legal Skills Stephanie Vaughan spoke about the preliminary competition.
“The International Office of the Florida Bar has sponsored the qualifying event since 2005,” Vaughan told the Florida Record. “Originally the competition was in Orlando, but it has since been relocated to Miami.”
The Vienna event was the definition of global, showcasing 311 teams representing 67 countries.
“The idea in Vienna is to bring together future legal leaders to promote international peace,” Vaughan said. “We want to show the world that conflicts don’t have to be resolved with guns and bombs and wars.”
This year’s Vienna competition carried on in an especially poignant spirit, occurring a scant four days after the Brussels bombings that claimed 35 lives. All 2,000 law students gathered during opening ceremonies to observe a moment of silence for the dead and join together in an oath to devote themselves to the pursuit of finding peaceful solutions to international disputes.
The International Commercial Arbitration event has grown in the 23 years since it first met in Vienna. The competition and related activities have spread to encompass all seven floors of the law school, two nearby law firms, and the undergraduate department of the college.
It almost mirrors the 64-team bracket approach employed for the annual NCAA basketball men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
“The preliminary round lasts four days and cuts the field to 64 teams,” Vaughan explained. “From there it is cut to 32, then 16, and so forth.”
The process of qualifying and preparing for the Stetson International Commercial Arbitration team is not for the faint of heart. Vaughan described the grueling process as the “legal olympics.”
To join the team, a student must enroll in a class whose entire purpose is competition preparation. Activities include practice memorandum writing, arguments, and a schedule that includes three or four nights each week of additional training.
In this case, all the hard work paid off. Ryan’s recognition placed him in the top 50 of almost 2,000 oralists. Stetson was one of only six (out of 49) U.S. teams to make it into the round of 32.