FIVE LAW STUDENTS from Sydney University have won the most competitive international mooting competition in Washington, overcoming teams from approximately 100 law schools around the globe.
All-conquering at the Phillip C Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, the team defeated Australian national winners, the University of Queensland, in the semis before finishing off Kings College of London in the final.
“We were pretty nervous, obviously. It was a long road to get from the start of the competition to the end,” team member Lucas Bastin said. “We knew we had come through a very difficult national round in Australia … but there is always a lot of apprehension going into a moot competition where you need to win nine moots to get to the final.”
After beating strong teams from the United States and Venezuela, Sydney University was forced to meet Queensland in the penultimate round because no two teams from the same country are allowed to progress to the final.
“It was a very close moot again,” Bastin said. “But I think in the end we just edged Queensland out because of a level of question answering and engagement which the bench, in that particular moot, appreciated.”
Bastin, along with fellow team members Fiona Roughley, Natasha Simonsen, Odette Murray, and Zelie Wood, spent five months preparing for the competition under the supervision of coach, ex-Jessuper and Sydney barrister, Justin Hogan-Doran. They were assisted by the law faculty, as well as gaining sponsorship from Allens Arthur Robinson and the NSW Bar Association.
In his fourth year as coach of the team, Hogan-Doran said he believed the team had a very good chance of winning going into the competition.
“Every Australian team that goes through is likely to finish somewhere in the top six to eight in the world,” he said. “I was very confident that they would make it through to at least the final rounds. But sometimes it can be a bit of a lottery at that point.”
Hogan-Doran said the competition is enormously prestigious in Australia, and many law firms view participation in it as a valid alternative to a clerkship.
“A lot of people go on from Jessup to government service,” he said. “[And] probably at any one time, the majority of associates to the judges of the High Court are all ex-Jessupers. There were many of them who are current associates who came to judge at the national round in Canberra.”
The coach compared the experience gained by the students as similar to that gained by lawyers who have been in practice for a number of years.
“It does greatly improve the quality of their writing and the quality of their communications, and their ability to think like lawyers and not just as law students,” he said.
Along with the honour of first place in the competition, Bastin was also awarded the best oralist prize for his efforts in the semi-final.
“I was blown away when I heard that I won it, especially considering the quality of oralists in my moot … and the reputation of the oralists from the universities in the other moot, Kings College London and the national university of Singapore,” he said.