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How the world’s biggest virtual moot was won: NUJS Vis Vienna victors Ashika Jain, Kaira Pinheiro share experience, tips

From new technology to coping with being scattered around the country, mooting virtually brings new challenges, besides the pressure of the Vis itself

Kaira Pinheiro (left) and Ashika Jain (right) talk about how they won Vis Vienna for NUJS
Kaira Pinheiro (left) and Ashika Jain (right) talk about how they won Vis Vienna for NUJS

A team of speakers from NUJS Kolkata - second-year students Ashika Jain and Kaira Pinheiro - had made history last week (9 April) after winning the 27th Willem C Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot.

This feat not just brought the Vis Vienna cup back to India, after Nalsar had won Vis Vienna, in 2012, but also crowned NUJS the Vis Vienna champions, having also won it for the first time in 2003 (see a thanks also to a commenter's full break-up of international moots won by four NLUs).

While around 400 teams had submitted Vis memoranda this year, only 248 teams ultimately participated after Covid adjustments from the competition to an entirely online format.

We asked Jain and Pinheiro for what a virtual Vis experience was like and for some tips and tricks on their success.

What was a virtual Vis like?

Ashika Jain: Firstly, we were glad that it at least happened! The virtual moot was confirmed just a few days before the scheduled dates.

The preliminary rounds were conducted on a platform named Immediation while the semis and finals were on Zoom. Kudos to the Organising Committee of the Vis Moot, teams and arbitrators from all corners of the world and across different time zones could come together to ensure the smooth functioning of the event.

Technical assistance was always available from their side, whenever we faced any glitches.

Overall, it was a very new experience for all of us.

How was the adjustment to virtual mooting?

Kaira Pinheiro: There weren’t too many adjustments that had to be made, apart from ensuring that you had a quiet room with a stable internet connection.

We only began practising via online speaking rounds in March, as we would schedule practices with alumni and our coaches but that month in itself was sufficient time for us to get used to it.

With regards to research, everything stayed more or less the same since after our university closed down, although we no longer had access to the library books, we still had access to online resources by virtue of the NUJS ezproxy library facility.

Where were you all based during the moot and preparations?

Ashika Jain: Due to the pandemic, our university was shut since March 16 and since we all come from different parts of the country, all of us had to fly back home.

In that case, we could not really plead from the same location.

Kaira stays in Mumbai, I in Kolkata and our researchers in other parts of the nation. However, I do believe that this distance in a way helped us as we started having our practices online since that time itself, which I believe helped us in the actual virtual rounds as well.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that prepping together with the entire team, as was the case for about 4 months, was the more fun part of this moot!

Any advantages or disadvantages to virtual mooting?

Kaira Pinheiro: With respect to advantages, I personally feel that the focus of the arbitrators becomes more on the content of the speech in itself as opposed to other factors such as body language, or team coordination, etc.

I do not, however, feel that virtual moots should be conducted always, since teams from places with weaker internet connections would be at an unfair disadvantage since minor aspects like time-lags, and ambient noise can tend to affect the scores given to speakers.

How did you cope with technology or other issues?

Kaira Pinheiro: The Vis moot conducted several online workshops to explain the working of the Immediation platform to all of the participants in a very comprehensive manner.

Apart from the issues faced on the first day when the platform crashed and the rounds were delayed, most of the issues were resolved within that day itself and everything else was smooth sailing from then onwards for us.

Any advice for preparing for a virtual moot specifically?

Ashika Jain: This is not really my advice, but certain things we learnt over the course of our practices and actual rounds as well.

Firstly, it is preferable to sit in a brightly lit place, with adequate amount of light on your face so it is clearly visible. A solid background is preferred, with as less things as possible, as they might serve as distractions.

Lastly, sitting too close to the camera is ill-advised. A little distance enables your hand gestures to be visible which in a way (and as we were told) makes you look more confident.

So yeah, these are very tiny yet important things that might have an impact on a person hearing your pleadings!

Any advice or tips about how you managed to win Vis?

Kaira Pinheiro: Apart from the innumerable speaking practices, it is undeniable that luck (and a good internet connection) play a major role in your success at the competition.

We would generally schedule a speaking practice with teams from across the world that were participating in the moot, and have our respective teams coaches arbitrate the round.

Ashika and I found this to be a lot more helpful than simply reciting our speeches before a single arbitrator, since practising against teams with different arguments and speaking styles taught us to be dynamic and adaptable.

The NUJS speakers were supported by researchers Anand Krishnan (2023 graduating batch), Sahaj Mathur (2024), Shivani Choudhary (2023), Mehak Kumar (2023), Rajat Pareek (2023), and Kashish Satra (2024).

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