ANU Law students excel for Team Australia at INC

Intercollegiate Negotiation Competition Team Australia
Madeleine McGregor (top left) says the two-day competition fostered ‘important professional qualities and skills’ in negotiation.

In today’s climate of polarisation, divisiveness, and global challenges, negotiation skills are important at all levels to create mutual understanding and mutually beneficially solutions.

The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law has continued its impressive record in e-mooting, with four students representing Team Australia in Japan’s top international negotiation competition.

Together with five teammates from across Australia, ANU Law students Madeleine McGregor, Zoe Vlahogiannis, Adina Darbyshire and Emma Rogerson competed in the English- and Japanese-language divisions of the Intercollegiate Negotiation Competition (INC) 2020 held over Zoom.

Held entirely online for the first time in 2020, the annual competition uses an international commercial transaction as its problem. It attracts the top law schools in Japan as well as teams from Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Mongolia.

Teams are required to submit both written submissions and oral arguments, with participants choosing to compete in English or Japanese.

Coached by Professor Veronica Taylor (ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance), Dr Nobumichi Teramura (Sydney Law School) and Carol Lawson (ANU College of Law) and assisted by Kieran Pender (ANU College of Law, BA (Hon) '16, LLB (Hon) '18), Team Australia won the prize for the highest-scoring team in English-language and finished as overall runners-up.

In this Q&A, English sub-team captain and drafting co-lead Madeleine McGregor (Bachelor of Economics/Laws (Hons); Tuckwell Scholar) discusses the experience of preparing for an international e-mooting competition and reflects on the skills she acquired through the experience.

What inspired you to participate in the INC?

As I aspire to work in the field of international disputes, in both public and private international law, the INC presented the opportunity to work on realistic complex international commercial problems and collaborate with law students across the Asia Pacific.

Today, so much of the dispute resolution process operates outside the courts. The increasingly transnational nature of modern business has allowed alternative dispute resolution, such as arbitration and negotiation, to grow in popularity. This competition provided a unique chance to delve into this growing practice and gain relevant skills.

How did you prepare for the competition, particularly in light of the challenges posed by COVID-19?

This year’s experience had the added challenge of our preparation and competition taking place entirely on Zoom. This meant that, aside from the other ANU members, we never met our teammates in-person during our four months of preparation for the competition! An important skill was learning how to connect with my teammates as well as the competitors and judges over Zoom.

It is much more challenging to be engaging and compelling when you are reduced to a small square on someone’s screen. We worked hard on developing presentation techniques for Zoom, constructing an animated and convincing case in our arbitration, and building a positive collaborative environment when negotiating.

Presentation techniques on Zoom differed from in-person. To make eye-contact, we needed to look at the camera – not the judges – which was unintuitive and challenging for anticipating judge’s questions and gauging their reactions. Hand gestures and body movement, usually engaging in-person, can also be distracting over Zoom. Instead, we explored the most effective camera framing, used plain white walls and relied primarily on our voice and facial expressions to promote our desired message.

Despite not being able to travel to Tokyo for the competition, we were still given the opportunity to meet the judges and other competitors at the welcoming ceremony. The teams also had to produce an introductory video, and the personality and humour in some of the clips left us laughing off our nerves before the arbitration.

What were some of the real-world legal skills you feel you acquired/honed through the competition?

The competition runs over two days, involving the fictional corporations Red Corp and Blue Inc., which operate in Arbitria and Negoland.

The first day was an arbitration, involving issues of liability and compensation for goods damaged in air freight, customer data protection and hacking, and procedural issues concerning online arbitrations. We had to prepare a preliminary memorandum and a response memorandum before the four-hour oral hearing on the day of the competition. The second day was a negotiation that involved responding to the COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 era in the tourism, courier and logistics industries. Each team member assumes a role in the company, such as Vice President or e-Commerce Director, and conducts negotiations from that perspective.

As well as learning international commercial arbitration law, the competition fostered important professional qualities and skills not learnt in a classroom. This includes teamwork, project management, giving and receiving feedback, plain English drafting, business acumen, and cross-cultural negotiation.

We also brushed up on our negotiation skills, creative problem solving, understanding each other’s real interests, and working together to create shared value. Collaboration, in the public and private spheres, is becoming more and more important in our globalised world with shared problems and opportunities.

In today’s climate of polarisation, divisiveness, and global challenges, negotiation skills are important at all levels to create mutual understanding and mutually beneficially solutions.

What advice would you give to students about participating in mooting competitions?

I would strongly encourage all law students to participate in mooting and negotiation competitions. Whether you are interested in practising law or pursuing something else after university, the practical skills you gain are invaluable and hard to acquire in other areas of your university experience.

Not only will you gain a deep understanding in a particular area of the law, you will also learn about teamwork; managing people, deadlines and expectations; unparalleled research and drafting skills; and learning advocacy skills that can be adapted to any context and culture.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the competition?

I would like to extend a huge thank you to our coach, Professor Veronica Taylor, without whom Australia’s participation in this competition would not be possible. Her experience and dedication was critical to our success.

Interested in learning more about mooting at ANU? See here.

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team