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Like it or not, you are a negotiator

A day in the life of our case team

It’s Friday the 16th of November. 6:45 am. A delegation of our case team gathers at Lei 6, ready to make the trip to Hamburg. They are going to compete in the Bucerius Mediation Moot. This Moot is an international preparatory gathering for students who want to train for the big goal: The ICC Commercial Mediation Competition in Paris, this February. Fully suited up, and our preparations and opening statements in our backpacks, we make the final arrangements for a smooth trip.

Over the past two months, we had weekly appointments to prepare for this moot. It will be the first time for Arto, Brent and Maarten to compete in a competition as one of the parties involved. Especially the specific process is something we were eager to find out. The merits of mediation may sound reasonable. In practice, however, we had no experience in to what extent it really can help to overcome dissemination and conflict. After all, the very reason the ICC organizes the competition is probably to improve awareness of the process in commercial disputes.

Almost seven hours later, we finally arrive. The trip went quite uneventful and the first impressions of Hamburg are imposing. On first sight, the big port and industrial quarter. Later on, we would also see a small glimpse of the old town which was rather magical. Especial the old city hall.

After a quick drop-off at our Airbnb and after finding something to eat for lunch, we finally stand ready for the first of four rounds! Students from all over Europe, from Florence to Moscow, have gathered to cross swords on their road to conquer Paris.

It is noteworthy to mention that the composition of our team is quite unique. First of all, we chose a self-steering setup. For the ICC Competition in Paris, groups can be formed up to four students. Each team can also bring along two coaches. We opted to register six students, in order to maximize the learning opportunity for as many of our members who were interested in competing. Since you can register only once as a participant, being a coach in the first edition and participant in the second edition, gave us quite some interesting insights to maximize our involvement.

Secondly, the background of our delegation is also uncommon. At Hamburg, our team consists of a Mathematical Engineer, a Chemical Engineer, a Business Engineer and indeed merely one lawyer. After all, the competition is organized from a lawyer’s perspective. In order to be eligible for Paris, a team needs to consist of two law students. In February, David and Shani will join us. Unfortunately, they were already longer booked for this weekend. With David in the group, we found our second law student. Shani is currently finishing her second Master in marketing. She is a Business Economics student.

There are two sessions on Friday. During each session, two students of the team compete while the others observe and take notes, for feedback and learning purposes. Mindset: Paris! A mediation session takes 85 minutes. After that, there are 15 minutes reserved for feedback from the mediator and the two jury members. As you probably could have deducted, Maarten and Arto are going to act as the coaches in Paris. Here at Hamburg, they are more than worthy participants.

In the first round, Brent takes the role of the client and Ewout acts as his council, since both need to adapt to their role for Paris. They face the team of Ljubljana. It was a fun first case, especially as Dr. Marcus Bauckmann was the mediator. For Ewout, it is already his third time here in Hamburg. Each edition in another role, with another team. It needs no plea that acting as a council instead of a client, was quite the challenge: blabber less, advise more!

It is eight in the evening and we have finally finished up the last case of the day. Each of us already got the experience of competing. The organization had foreseen a small evening activity: a visit at the Hamburg Dom. After a quick stroll through this giant fair, we finally get what we have been craving for the whole day: real food and a pint. We have a group evaluation of the first day, finally at ease. Conclusion: we had a good first day. We loved it.

As we still had another day to go, we did not linger at the bar and went quite early back to our place to prepare some more. As it turned out, the opening statement could have been rehearsed a bit more. Ah, the vast learning curve is thrilling! We even believe Brent was mumbling his speech while sleeping. What a dedication!

It is Saturday morning, early, and yes: our team is suited up. Ready for case day two! The Airbnb looked a bit suspicious from the outside as it was rather old and unkempt. At the inside, however, we found the coziest stay for one night, fulfilling all standards and decent beds.

After going through our notes and deciding upon our strategies, we are ready to negotiate once more. We used the feedback and experience from what we have learned yesterday, with great success. Our revised strategy was to make the other team propose a merger before the seventieth minute. And how baffling: at exactly 70 minutes into the case, they propose to combine our production under one brand name. We cannot deny that Maarten was jumping in his chair from excitement. The last case really was a sort of crown to our learning. We even marked better scores than the teams during the final.

During lunch, we hear who will play the finals: The Law Schools of both Hamburg and Hannover. During their preparation, we found time for some feedback, an evaluation of the two Saturday cases, lunch and a small chitchat with the other contestants.

After an interesting derby between the two German Law Schools, we were ready for the ride home. Truth be spoken: they deserved the final, and Hannover its first price. Tired and satisfied, we rode back to Leuven with a lot of experience in our backpacks. This competition was an indispensable horde for our participation in Paris. We noted a lot, learned a lot and are ready to step up our game. We hope to tell you more later in Paris. In any case (or better: in all cases) we hope to master the details even further and to stand treat all friends and foes with an honorable participation.