This past year has seen learning institutions rapidly transform the way they deliver education. Platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have enabled them to keep teaching in both remote and hybrid models.
Legal education is no exception to this. As tomorrow’s law professionals prepare for a future in international commercial arbitration, a key aspect of their education – mooting – is now taking place online.
The Willem C. Vis Moot is one of the largest mooting competitions in the field of international commercial arbitration, attracting hundreds of student teams each year. Its sister moot, the Vis East Moot, has equally attracted universities from all around the world, training law students in the crucial aspects of arbitration. Supported by numerous international industry bodies and law firms, the competition highlights the importance of effective argumentation and communication in (virtual) dispute resolution.
Now in its 18th year, the Vis East Moot 2021 was conducted online amid the ongoing COVID pandemic, using Zoom to replace the in-person event that normally sees students and judges from around the globe traveling to Hong Kong.
The week-long event attracted 149 student teams to argue orally before an international tribunal of 300 professional arbitrators. Naturally, the debates are the highlight of the annual competition and the transition to a virtual format was no easy feat. Competing teams argued their way through more than 300 individual Zoom sessions to the elimination rounds and – ultimately – the grand finale.
Students had spent months preparing for the prestigious competition and stakes were high as they were representing both their universities and countries. Further pressure was added by worries that technology hurdles would affect their ability to effectively deliver their arguments virtually.
The event organizer needed to deliver a reliable and seamless virtual experience for students and judges alike. How to create a level playing field while instilling confidence that online meeting technology was up to the task?
As the official audio partner of the Vis East Moot, Shure stepped in with Best Practices for Virtual Meetings and advice on How To Fix Common Audio Issues. While teams and judges may all have different audio setups, a shared understanding of the do’s and don’ts of video conferences can significantly improve the overall meeting experience – much to the relief of the host managers who were sitting through hours and days of meetings on end.
Additionally, Shure also provided extensive on-site support for the organizers in Hong Kong who administered the event out of a conference room at the city’s Justice Place. With multiple virtual meetings running concurrently, the local hosts required personal audio devices to block out disruptive noises in the shared space. Shure supplied multiple sets of earphones and headphones, making sure everyone on-site had their own dedicated equipment. This was not only vital to addressing COVID-19 concerns by limiting shared devices, but also made it a lot easier for IT teams to manage set-up and support throughout the week-long event.
While the competition itself ran as a series of Zoom meetings and breakout sessions, the organizers wanted to keep the formal nature and atmosphere of the in-person event that had always been so popular with competing teams.
To that end, the opening ceremony, assembly and closing ceremonies were live streamed across the world via Facebook. The challenge was to maintain the typical presentation style with speeches and presentations on a stage, while ensuring audio and video were of professional quality.
With a simple setup of Microflex® Wireless Microphones, Zoom-certified IntelliMix® P300 Processor and Huddly IQ Camera, Shure was quickly able to create a high-quality streaming experience. The completely self-contained system was set up in just minutes and allowed maximum flexibility as the organizer decided on the final details of its ceremonies.
This ability for the event organizers to live stream some of the proceedings using professional audio gear demonstrates that it remains possible to maintain some ‘formality’ to official ceremonies, even in virtual events.
The Vis East Moot 2021 was a great success. It provided positive proof for the huge value delivered by the right audio tools, especially when communicating with a global audience. While the shift to an online model was prompted by COVID-19, the virtual format lent itself particularly well in the context of arbitration and echoes the experience of companies in the private sector, where effective remote collaboration has been invaluable in enabling business continuity throughout the global pandemic, and beyond.
Louise Barrington, Director, Vis East Moot Foundation Limited commented, “Over the past year, we have seen arbitration and mediation practitioners and clients rise to the challenges of separation and isolation by adapting procedures and embracing technology to support articulate and intelligible argumentation. Virtual hearings, which at first very strenuously rejected, have brought quantitative and qualitative changes to the practice of international commercial arbitration.”
“The outdated practice of in-person hearings have often resulted in lengthy, complex, and far too expensive cases. In a way, the COVID problem has become a catalyst for the change in alternate dispute resolution which was a long time coming. Virtual arbitration has become a reality, and with technology no longer a barrier, clients can get expert counsel from any place.”