Concept regarding the participation of a team from the University of Bern in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot

1. Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot: the world's largest competition in international business law

The Pace Law School in New York has been hosting the Willem C. Vis International Arbitration Moot in Vienna since 1993. With now over 290 participating universities, it is the world's largest student competition in international business law. Relevant areas of law are the UN Sales Convention (CISG) and - for civil procedure - the law of international arbitration. Because teams from all over the world participate in this competition, this moot has a particularly pronounced international character. Sponsors include well-known organizations such as the UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the American Arbitration Association, the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA). In the USA, and for some years now also in Europe, Moot Courts have been established as an integral part of university education. Since they enable students to improve their practical skills, they are also supported by the private sector. Teams from the Universities of Basel, Berne, Friborg, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, St. Gallen and Zurich regularly attend.

2. Procedure of the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot

Each participating university is represented by a team of about 4-6 students. In the beginning of October, Pace University distributes the materials. These consist of the correspondence between the parties and the arbitration court, and the presented evidence. Based on these documents, a statement of claim (up to 35 pages) must be compiled in English and submitted to Pace University by the beginning of December. The submitted "Memoranda for Claimant" will be distributed to the teams, who will then have to write a Statement of Defense ("Memorandum for Respondent") by the end of January. Following this exchange, the teams meet in Vienna the week before Easter. In the Viennese "Juridicum", each team presents their arguments to a jury of three, appearing twice as "claimant" and twice as "respondent". The jury members are judges, professors and lawyers from all over the world, most of whom are professionally involved in arbitration proceedings. The "official language" for both statements and the oral proceedings is English. The jury does not judge the case on its merrits, but assesses the quality of the oral presentation and its persuasiveness. In addition to knowledge on the subject and legal knowledge, they pay particular attention to the students' ability to react precisely, flexibly and profoundly to the opponent's presentation, or to react and provide specific responses to questions from the judges. A scoring system is used to identify the top 16 teams that will compete against each other in the final rounds. As it turns out, successful negotiation does not require a native English speaker. At the end of the proceedings, the two best teams compete in the finale at the Vienna Exhibition Hall. The best statements and the best individual oral presentation are honored as well.

3. Credits for the team members

  • In the Masters program:


  • In the Bachelor program:

Can be credited only as a case solution or seminar paper (5 ECTS). However, it should be noted that participation as a Bachelor student only makes sense in exceptional cases (e.g. exchange students), because 5 ECTS do not compensate the large amount of work that participation in the Willem C. Vis Moot entails.

4. How do students benefit from participation?

There are various reasons for why the Willem C. Vis Moot has become so popular:

  • Practice-oriented training and career planning:

The participants in the Willem C. Vis Moot are taught verbal precision and how to develop convincing arguments. On the basis of the knowledge they acquired when drafting their statements, participants also learn the art of convincingly representing a party in the oral proceedings. The opportunity to work in a team and the acquisition of legal expressions in English is important for future international business law cases and provides a first insight into the work of an international business lawyer. Participants also learn to cope with a seemingly abstruse network of rules, most of which do not stem from national legislators but from international organizations such as UNCITRAL, ICC or Unidroit, and to focus on relevent aspects. Finally, as testimonials show, participation in Willem C. Vis Moot can also be a career-booster or facilitate admission to an LL.M. program at a high-quality university in English-speaking countries.

  • Cultural Exchange:

In addition to all the subject-specific reasons and despite the hard work, countless testimonials prove that participation in the Willem C. Vis Moot is a unique experience. Especially the week in Vienna, during which the oral proceedings are conducted, allows for legal and cultural exchange in which valuable contacts are made. The time spent with students, professors and practitioners from all over the world - in and outside the negotiation rooms - is an extremely enriching and probably unforgettable experience. For this reason a "Moot Alumni Association" was established, which allows (former) participants to stay in touch with the Moot and which organizes various events in Vienna.

5. Supervision of the Bernese team

Participants from the University of Bern are supervised by Prof. Dr. Mirjam Eggen and Prof. Dr. Christoph Brunner (and other coaches). In addition to assistance in the drafting of the written pleadings, oral pleadings in particular are practiced before they are presented in Vienna. Being able to practice trial negotiation skills with experienced practitioners is part of the preparation for participating students. Trial negotiations are, among others, held with other Swiss and foreign universities.

6. Requirements

  • Written and oral proficiency in English (English is the "official langauge");
  • An interest in international law, particularly international commercial law (especially international arbitration and CISG), meaning either prior knowledge in these fields or the willingness to learn about them; 
  • Readiness and availability.