International Mediation Competition: A Priceless Experience

This post is the first in a two-part series on student experiences competing at the Annual International Chamber of Commerce Mediation Competition, which takes place in February each year. Monash law students have the opportunity to participate by enrolling in International Commercial Dispute Resolution and expressing interest in participating in the competition. Participants undergo comprehensive training and preparation with expert mentors before competing in a series of mock mediations in Paris.

Monash has been successfully sending teams to the ICC Mediation competition for the last few years. In 2014, the Monash team came runners up. In 2015, the Monash team won the ICC Award for best mediation plan. In 2016 the Monash team placed third overall.

Punam Roopra, Shalaka Parekh, Caroline Marton and Sarwar Haji were competitors on the 2017 Monash team at the 12th Annual ICC Mediation Competition in Paris in February. Read on to learn more about Punam’s experience. 

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The 2017 Monash Team and their coaches at the ICC Mediation Competition

After coming back from Paris almost two months ago, a friend recently asked me whether I would compete in the ICC Mediation Competition again if I had the opportunity. At first, this question seemed absurd because surely every student would jump at the opportunity to be part of an international competition. However, when I thought it over, I realised the real question she was asking was whether I would compete again, even though we did not win. To both of these questions, my answer is a resounding YES, for a multitude of reasons which I will further elaborate upon.

When I was presented with the opportunity to participate in the competition, I was a little bit uncertain because I had no experience with ADR outside of the classroom. Nevertheless, I embraced this opportunity, trepidation and all, and I cannot be more glad that I did.

The competition involves a series of mock mediations. Each team is comprised of two team members acting as Client and Counsel. During the mock mediation, two teams represent opposing parties who are in ‘mediation’ with the aim of reaching a mutually beneficial solution to their commercial dispute. There are two judges present and a mediator who runs the session.

The competition is based in Paris with approximately 66 competing universities and numerous mediation professionals from all over the world. From a law student’s perspective, this is a networking dream. However, when you look at the competition as a whole, it is so much more than a networking opportunity.

At the very heart of the entire competition, it is all about mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). ADR includes a variety of processes such as mediation, negotiation and collaborative practice. All of these processes allow parties involved in a dispute to come together to discuss their interests. When it works well, ADR involves the parties working together to develop options that are mutually beneficial. This results in better outcomes as parties feel more ownership and a greater commitment to their resolutions. Additionally, ADR encourages a valuable win/win mindset as opposed to the traditional win/lose thinking that litigation results in.

In my opinion, ADR is an aspect of the law that is greatly overlooked. Students enter law school predisposed towards litigation and the adversarial process, believing that the only way to be an effective lawyer is to constantly be battling in Court. This is unsurprising as this is what universities emphasise, as evidenced by litigation being a compulsory unit while ADR classes remain predominantly elective. There will always be place in the legal industry for litigation, but most students never really consider ADR as an actual career option.

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Participating in the ICC Mediation Competition gave me the opportunity to see how mediation can assist with resolving conflict. Our four team members each had the opportunity to sit in the position of Client and Counsel. Although the mediations may have been simulated, it opened my eyes to the benefits and advantages of the process. These include working collaboratively, a greater commitment to solutions; a better understanding of the opposition’s interests and to some degree it encourages compassion.

Additionally, I learnt invaluable skills, which I will carry forward with me wherever I go next, primarily the skill of active listening and asking more insightful questions to obtain more information without having to probe. This is a skill I’ve applied more personally in my family life. Moreover, this experience has taught me to be more objective and patient, and not to react so haphazardly, but to pick up on the nuances in responses from those I am engaging with, which has allowed me to respond in a more compassionate and empathic way.

I am grateful to our wonderful coaches and mentors, Anne Sutherland-Kelly and Peter Singer, for opening my eyes to another facet of legal practice. Since participating in the competition, I have been strongly encouraging other students to consider competing in next year’s ICC Mediation Competition. The skills and experience you will gain and the connections you will make go far beyond boosting your resume.

So, to answer my friend’s question of whether I would compete again, the answer is YES because even though we did not make finals, the experience in and of itself was priceless.  

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