Four IE University students from the Dual Degree in Administration and Laws win the 6th edition of the EUROPA Moot Court Competition against several undergraduate and master law students from all over Europe.
This April, law students and academics from a range of international universities, as well as legal practitioners and judges from the European Court of Justice, came together at the 6th edition of the EUROPA Law Moot Court. This year, it took place in Óbidos, Portugal.
The EUROPA Law Moot Court, organized by Jurisnova and the MOHA Research Center, sets out to provide participants with the chance to get involved in a real-world simulation. In this simulation, they must solve a hypothetical EU law case and argue their case as if they were pleading before the Court of Justice at the European Union. It is also an opportunity for students to meet and network with other participants and judges from all around Europe.
This year, the team from IE University, formed by four students from the Dual Degree in Business Administration and Laws and the Dual Degree in Laws and International Relations took the competition by storm and managed to secure first place after competing against several undergraduate and master law students from all over Europe. Furthermore, IE University student Niklas Hess was selected as the best speaker of the competition.
Bárbara Gómez Cortés, Elena Sabau Barthe, Niklas Hess and Elvinas Jonaitis, together with Professor Charlotte Elisabeth Leskinen, who helped the four students to prepare and guided them throughout the course of the competition, have joined again to tell us about their experience and how they came to win first place.
Why do you consider it relevant for students to take advantage of these opportunities offered by IE University?
Professor Charlotte Leskinen: “The EUROPA Law Moot Court Competition provides students with a fantastic opportunity to learn how to work, act, and think as lawyers since they are asked to argue a complex case as if they were pleading before the Court of Justice of the European Union. Therefore, they must research related law topics and understand how the law works in a real-world situation. Yet, there is no solution to this situation, however, the Court is asked to rule on these legal issues for the first time. The moot court competition also allows students to put their advocacy skills to the test by pleading before judges and référendaires from the Court of Justice of the European Union, legal practitioners, and academics from prestigious European universities.”
Why did you want to participate in the EUROPA Law Moot Court?
Bárbara: “I heard about it from a student who had participated the year before. I knew it was going to be very challenging and time-consuming, but I was sure it was worth it. I have participated in other law competitions within the university and enjoyed them all very much. The EUROPA Law Moot Court Competition is a wonderful experience where you get the chance to meet judges that work at the European Court of Justice and network with law students from all over Europe.”
Elena: “I decided to sign up for the moot court because I wanted to gain and develop the skills necessary to pursue a legal career. I also wanted to continue challenging myself: I have participated in a number of law competitions held at IE University (the commercial law challenge as well as the EU law challenge), and every time I have been proud of the effort I put in. In each case, I was extremely happy with the learning experience I gained from taking part. I’d been eager to sign up to a moot court as it is the next step up; I would be competing against people from other universities from all across Europe. I wanted to participate in the EUROPA moot court in particular because I thoroughly enjoyed my EU Law class at university, and I think that this particular field is one that IE University law students can excel in since it is inherently cross-border and international.”
Can you describe the case you were appointed in this edition?
Bárbara: “The case was handed to us in December and we had to prepare the part of the claimants and the defence. The dispute revolved around investment in the Energy sector and the applicability of the Energy Charter Treaty in intra-EU disputes, between an investor of a Member State in the territory of another Member state. More specifically, it related to whether a European investor can rely on the provisions of investment protection of the ECT after having received unlawful state aid.
The most interesting part is that, currently, it is a question which is yet to be resolved by the Court of Justice and which is being discussed by European Union institutions such as The Commission as well as in arbitration tribunals.”
What have you learned during the preparation process and the competition itself?
Elena: “I have improved my oral presentation skills since for the competition I had to put forth quite a complex argument in a very limited amount of time (ten minutes). This meant I had to be thorough, straightforward and clear in my explanation. I also have learned to adapt effectively and quickly—both by taking into account the feedback that Charlotte gave me and changing my pleadings from one week to the next, and by being able to answer quickly when the judges asked me questions.”
Bárbara: “I believe my research skills have improved the most. Our professor wanted us to prepare the claim and the defence based on our own efforts and we had to analyze extensive case-law and academic papers surrounding the topic. Moreover, I improved my advocacy skills as we had practice moot courts with different professors from IE who were acting as judges throughout the year. I have also learned a great deal about teamwork as, in the competition, you are graded as a team, even if you never actually carry out a moot case together. Although this puts a lot of pressure on the group, it was great to have a team that supported me every step of the way and helped me to continually improve.”
Elvinas: “I think that the main lesson I have learned is how great of a feeling it is to trust your team and how important it is to work consistently. In addition, this style of competition has shown me that law can, in fact, be very exciting.”
What are the most important aspects to guiding a team through this competition?
Professor Charlotte Leskinen: “It is essential to know the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, in order to assign the different roles to them in the most optimal way. In addition, the practice moots, which simulate the real moot court competition, are key. Constantly challenging the students with difficult questions under time pressure equips them with the capacity to also deal with surprising questions and to modify their pleadings on the spot in order to comply with the time allocated for the submissions.”
What were the main challenges you faced during the competition?
Elena: “While preparing for this competition, I faced several challenges. For example, the fact that I had to become an expert in a very specific field that I knew nothing about before signing up for the moot court. I also had to alter my pleadings frequently, to be able to include all the information in a short period of time when presenting the case before the judges.”
Niklas: “I would say that time management was the main challenge. While preparing for the competition, I was also part of the Student Government, had my own start-up, needed to keep up with my regular studies, and participated in extracurricular activities, such as the BBA Business Case Competition. Also, as a team we faced some legal challenges, since the topic of the competition is currently pending in front of the CJEU, there is no clear answer to the case. This also brought about other challenges including unforeseen circumstances, unexpected questions at the competition, unexpected judges, the other teams’ performances, etc.”
What are the attributes a team must have in order to win this competition?
Professor Charlotte Leskinen: “The whole team, including the coach, must be very committed and prepared to work hard. Since the case involves novel legal issues, good research skills, and creativity, being able to come up with new legal solutions are also required. Last but not least, excellent advocacy skills and ingenuity to answer questions from the judges as well as capacity to think on your feet are essential in order to win.”
After this experience, what are the main qualities you think a student must have to succeed?
Elena: “I actually think that I learned many of the qualities necessary to succeed by working under the guidance of Charlotte. I think that students should not be afraid to sign up for the moot simply because they fear they may not already know a lot about a specific field of law or how to be effective speakers. This is precisely why the moot exists in the first place: to allow us to practice and train and get better. Of course, students must have some basic knowledge of EU law already, but in general I think that the only qualities that a student needs to succeed are to (i) be willing to learn, (ii) be ready to work and spend time researching, and (iii) be adaptable and open to feedback. If you have these skills, the moot court will be an outstanding experience, both at an academic and personal level.”
How does participation in this moot court contribute to the student’s future?
Professor Charlotte Leskinen: “The EUROPA Moot Court Competition allows the students to improve their skills to conduct legal research and legal analysis and to understand and interpret statutory provisions and case law. In addition, they get to practice and improve their advocacy skills, learn about new legal issues, and become better lawyers and team-players. These are skills that are valuable for any future lawyer.”
Overall, it is clear to see that the students thoroughly enjoyed the experience of taking part in the EUROPA Law Moot Court: an incredibly enriching and thought-provoking competition which has further inspired our students to pursue a career in the field of law. Winning first place was well deserved, and we at IE University are sure that these four students will continue to prosper and grow into successful lawyers, making huge impacts on a global stage.