For Ecab Amor Vazquez, competing in the European Human Rights Moot Court competition was an unmissable opportunity. Born in Mexico City, intensive training in the martial arts from a young age honed a competitive spirit that he now considers vital to his academic achievements and his recent success with Team IE in the regional stages of the Moot Court competition.
As a third-year student of the Dual Degree in Law and International Relations, the unique experience of developing and arguing a complex human-rights case before a court of highly regarded legal professionals has given Ecab a distinctive edge, as he prepares to enter the challenging field of Human Rights Law.
IE University talked to Ecab to find out more about the work that went into securing success for Team IE at the European Moot Court, as well as reflecting upon how the experience has benefitted his legal studies.
Tell us about your experience at the Moot Court
Having competed in martial arts for my entire life, the thrill of competition is something akin to meditation: an opportunity to better one’s body and mind. Before the Moot Court experience, I thought this sentiment was something inexorably linked to the physical competition. However, this experience has proved me wrong. The European Human Rights Moot court competition was not only a deeply enriching academic exercise, it was also a deeply personal one.
It all began in the beginning of the semester with an elective course available to all law students in their third year at university. During this preparatory course, we received a crash course in the law of the European Court of Human Rights, delving into a faux case, and eventually participating in a simulation of an oral pleading as a class. The latter was used to select the team that would represent IE University at the Moot Court; I wouldn’t have believed I’d form a part of that team!
In the second half of the first semester, the team (composed of four students) took a more in-depth look into the legal matters relevant for our written brief, which required working at a more professional level than we’d seen in the preparatory course. On December 15th, we submitted our written pleadings for both the applicants and the respondents. But our job was not done there—as soon as the second semester began, the team reconvened to prepare the oral pleadings to be presented in Gottingen, Germany for the regional round of the competition. In this time we refined our arguments, improved our oral presentation skills, and fostered an ability to adequately respond to questions at a moment’s notice.
When the moment finally came to present our case before the judges, the months of hard work all paid off. Our performance secured the IE University team a place in the final round of the competition in Strasbourg, France, having been selected from a pool of over 50 other universities across Europe. Once again, we will prepare diligently to represent IE University with pride.
What inspired you to participate in the Law Moot Court?
Near the end of last year, the LL.B. department brought the opportunity to our attention. It was presented with the disclaimer that the experience would be very difficult and that our grades would likely suffer as a result. I was certainly enthralled by the idea of taking part and my family urged me to sign up, knowing that Human Rights Law presented a perfect intersection of my two fields of study.
Perhaps the main reason I was drawn to the opportunity was the prospect of something that would challenge me: something that would stretch my abilities and capture my competitive spirit. The competition presented a unique opportunity to see how I stacked up not only against my peers, but to the future legal professionals across the continent.
Needless to say, the experience was incredibly challenging and immensely fulfilling. Reflecting on the competition, I feel very proud of the team and realize I also recaptured a fire I thought I had lost upon entering university. Although there is more work to be done, I truly believe we have what it takes to win in the finals.
How did you prepare for the competition?
None of what we did would have been possible without two people: Alice Thomas and Amaya Ubeda. Our coaches not only served as our academic mentors, they also supported us through thick and thin. The preparation for the competition was intense to say the least; not only was the subject matter demanding, we also had to do it in a relatively small amount of time. Early mornings and late nights spent reading cases became regular occurrences, as we poured over the details of every issue and constantly revamped our written pleadings.
When it came to the oral pleadings, I developed a revision schedule to practice my pleadings at least four times every day in order to make my argumentation as natural as possible. Preparing for the competition made us invest our hearts and souls into the case of Fiori v. Zephyria (the name of the faux case), not to mention a lot of time.
On a more personal note, I cannot thank the LL.B. department enough (especially Andrew) for making our lives as easy as possible. Whether it was getting me to Madrid for classes, or getting all of us to Germany, a “thank you” does not come close to expressing the gratitude we have for the department.
What have you learned about the competition, and what is the key to success in the Moot Court?
Accepting your ignorance is the key. Too often our generation feels like we know everything, likely because we have unparalleled access to information which makes research notoriously streamlined.
Something that I have realized is that the more you learn about something, the more you realize that you don’t know much at all. For me, this feeling imbues a desire to know and learn more. It is this hunger for understanding that drove me to consider every avenue, prepare every question, and consistently research to equip myself with all the tools necessary to succeed. Stay hungry.
What were the main challenges faced during the competition?
Aside from the challenge of learning complex law, time was a luxury that keenly escaped us. Not only did we need to complete the weekly assignments required by the Moot Court—involving hours of research, formulation, and for me, the need to physically go from Segovia to Madrid sometimes twice during the week—we also needed to keep up with our regular school work.
In a cruel twist of fate it also happened that two crucial stages of the competition (team selection and the submission of our written brief) coincided with midterm and final exams respectively. This left me with little more than enough time to go to the kitchen to make myself another cup of coffee (and at times another glass of wine). I am able to manage my time rather effectively, but I have to say this really tested my limits.
Other than that, I am happy to report that there were few other struggles. The team consisted of highly driven and intelligent individuals who were willing to give their all to see us succeed. As a notoriously antisocial person, I was happy to find some amazing new friends who it was a pleasure to work with. I have nothing but praise for my teammates—their work ethic was ironclad and they were able to overcome both personal and academic obstacles.
How will your participation in this Moot Court contribute to your future career aspirations?
The competition gave me an unrivalled practical experience, allowing me to take my first steps in the field I wish to turn into my profession. It also put me in contact with a variety of deeply interesting individuals from across the continent. Undoubtedly, getting to meet practicing lawyers and professionals in the field of human rights has helped to cement my career path. For me, it was deeply enriching to take a break from the corporate and private sphere and meet the people who I hope will become my colleagues.
In addition, it goes without saying that when applying for postgraduate programs being a finalist in a prestigious international competition bolsters any application. I believe this will enable me to continue my legal education after graduating from IE University. If we were to win the competition, the prize of the internship at the ECHR represents a golden ticket to our professional futures.
What is the key to success, and what advice would you give to other students?
I have always believed that success is a matter of priorities. I still fondly remember preparing to compete in my first karate world championships when I was 13 years old. After a long four-hour training session my Sensei (teacher) asked us one simple question: “Why are you here?” I responded that I wanted to be the best in the world at what I do. “And what are you willing to give up?” my Sensei retorted. I struggle to remember what I answered to that second question, but it has had a profound impact on who I am and what I have accomplished. It imbued me with a mindset that led me to become a world champion at the age of 14 and now continues to guide my approach, including in academics. I understand that success does not come without struggle.
If I were to offer any advice to future students partaking in the Moot Court elective, I would start by asking the same questions as my Sensei asked me nearly 10 years ago: why are you here?There are many reasons why one might choose to partake in the elective, but if you want to make it to the finals it will not come without work. This takes me to my second question: what are you willing to give up? Time and energy are finite resources, meaning that certain things will have to be sacrificed to align your priorities. You might have to forego certain social or leisure activities, or stay awake an extra couple of hours to finalize an argument. It all revolves around you—you need to establish why you’re taking part, and more importantly what success means to you.
In my eyes, the Human Rights Moot Court Competition has not only been a success because we’re going through to the final round. It was a success because I’ve rekindled my fire. I was able to work on something I love with amazing people, and I had an experience that will stay with me forever. I’ve emphasized the sacrifice that is necessary to succeed in a competition like this, but I cannot understate the fulfillment one feels when you rest your case, turn to your team, and smile.
Ecab and the IE University Moot Court team now look forward to competing in the final round of the competition, where they will face their most demanding challenge yet. With the unwavering support of their coaches and continued dedication, IE University is confident that the Moot Court team will excel in the last round as they continue to develop as promising human rights lawyers. We wish Ecab and the team every success!