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NZ students win silver: world mediation advocacy competition

28 February 2013

New Zealand students win silver in world mediation advocacy competition

The University of Auckland has achieved second place overall in the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Mediation Competition, held in Paris, France in February. This is the first time a New Zealand team has competed in the global event.

The team comprised Nupur Upadhyay, Adam McDonald, Alice Wang and Kimberley Eccles. The team’s coach Nina Khouri, a commercial litigator and strong advocate of mediation who has recently joined the Faculty of Law, was delighted with the result.

“It’s fantastic to put New Zealand, and the University of Auckland, on the international map for excellence in mediation advocacy,” says Nina Khouri.

Now in its eighth year, the ICC competition saw 66 university teams from 31 countries working with top mediators from around the world to solve complex international business disputes. The competition requires students to employ their advocacy, negotiation and problem-solving skills through mediation conducted under the ICC Amicable Dispute Resolution (ADR) Rules. Teams are scored on their ability to advance their own interests while collaborating with the mediator and the other party to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.

There were four preliminary rounds in which The University of Auckland competed against Fordham University, the University of Vienna, and teams from Tunisia and Brazil. The University of Auckland team proceeded to win its octo-final against Stockholm University, its quarter-final against University College London, and its semi-final against Vanderbilt University. The Auckland team was runner-up to a team from Poland in the Grand Final which was held on 13 February at La Maison du Barreau, the headquarters of the Paris Bar Association. The University of Auckland team also won the prize for the best mediation advocacy skills.

NZ commercial mediator Geoff Sharp was on the Rules Committee at the competition. Having judged and mediated at the Paris competition for three years, he says it was superb to watch the Auckland team progress through the competition, and made him very proud to be a New Zealander.

“Although the competition has limited profile in New Zealand it is huge for the European and US law schools and the Auckland team was the talk of the town - I received comment from a top tier London mediator saying he had never seen such a student performance in all his eight years of judging,” says Geoff Sharp.

"The competition was a tremendous learning experience. What really hit home was the necessity of an "iron fist, velvet glove" approach to mediation advocacy,” said team member Adam McDonald.

The scenarios that the teams mediated were multi-layered international disputes, with legal, commercial and ethical complications. Disputes to be resolved ranged from a disagreement between a Sri Lankan mining company and a Spanish jewellery manufacturer over who should carry alleged foreign exchange losses under a contract entered into in Turkey, to a dispute between an international non-government intellectual property rights watchdog and a multinational sporting-goods company over alleged unauthorised use of software.

On the team’s performance Dean of the Auckland Law School, Dr Andrew Stockley commented: “My congratulations go to Nina and the team. This is a significant achievement given there were 66 university teams from all over the world competing, and this was the first time Auckland had entered.”

The team members are grateful to The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law for funding their participation in the competition, and to New Zealand mediators Geoff Sharp, Suzanne Innes-Kent, Anna Quinn, Carol Powell, David Clark, Barbara McCulloch and Miriam Dean QC for generously donating their time to conduct practice mediations with the team in preparation for the competition.


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