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Our Law Students Win ICC Int’l. Commercial Mediation Competition in Hong Kong

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Our Law Students Win ICC Int’l. Commercial Mediation Competition in Hong Kong

A team of four 4th year law students from SWPS University's School of Law in Poznań, Katarzyna Gołaś, Aleksandra Hemmerling, Klaudia Lewandowska, and Piotr Sobczak won the ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition, organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Hong Kong. Despite the challenging conditions of the online competition, which often demanded the teams to compete at odd hours due to 15 different time zones, the students from SWPS University proved to be the best among 20 teams. They share this success with their coach Tomasz Antoszek, Ph.D., Head of the Department of Private Law at SWPS University in Poznań and economic mediator from Antoszek and Kamińska Mediation Firm, who helped the team to prepare for the competition and coached the students during the event. Congratulations!

To learn more about the competition, we talked with the winning team and their coach.

studenci prawa championami mediacji 2020

 

First of all: huge congratulations! What was the format of this year’s competition?

K.G., A.H., K.L., P.S.: As usual, the language of the competition was English and the heats were live, however due to the pandemic, all three elimination rounds, including the quarterfinal, semifinal and the final, took place online. Currently, it is very difficult to maintain normal relationships with friends, colleagues and the rest of the world. Therefore, international competitions pose a significant challenge not only for organizers, but also for participants. They provide only a substitute of the competitive atmosphere and relationships with students from around the world. The modified format of the competition required a lot of flexibility and self-discipline from us, because apart from drawing on the professional knowledge and skills, we had to learn how to work online, in an environment where a lot of things may surprise or distract you.

Please tell us a bit about the nature of the competition and the evaluation process.

Tomasz P. Antoszek, Ph.D.: There were six rounds in the competition. Before each round, all teams received a description of a case, including a confidential piece of information, which was known only to one side of the mediation. Based on this information, the team decided what aspects of the case will be crucial for them, and this was the foundation for the development of a strategy in negotiations with a university team from another country. In every round, two of the participants took on the roles of a legal representative and an entrepreneur-client. The goal was to conduct successful negotiations with the other party, with a support of a professional mediator.

Participation of professional mediators is what makes ICC competitions different. During other contests, for example those organized by the InterNational Academy of Dispute Resolution (INADR) or the Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition (CDRC) Vienna, in which we participated as a university before, students take on the roles of both, the mediator and the negotiators. The presence of a professional mediator, who on daily bases conducts professional legal negotiations as a lawyer, attorney-at-law or a mediator completely changes the perspective and poses an additional challenge for competitors, such as meeting expectations of an experienced business and legal expert, answering often demanding questions, and aligning own negotiation style with the mediation styles.

During the competition, mediation is governed by the ICC ADR Rules and the heats are evaluated by professional judges, who are professional lawyers, attorneys at law, negotiators, mediators, judges and arbiters. The judges assess not only the professional legal knowledge, such as terminology, legal assessment, argumentation, but also elements that are crucial for the negotiation process, such as strategy, soft competencies, and persuasion skills.

What does the win mean for you and what posed the biggest challenge during the competition?

K.G., A.H., K.L., P.S.: We won the competition and the Champion title, at the global level. We were awarded a fully paid participation in the 16th ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition in Paris, a prestigious negotiation-mediation competition.

The biggest challenge was the time difference between Poland and other time zones, where other competitors were from, for example universities from Australia, India or Canada. During the initial rounds, the organizers ensured our comfort and offered us a choice of time slots to match with the time zones of other teams. The difficulty occurred during the final rounds, when our team was not able to sleep throughout the whole night. The semifinal was scheduled for 4:00 am CET, while the confirmation that we had qualified for that round and the semifinal case study were sent to us at 2:00 am. The whole team, including the coach, was put on high alert to prepare for the heat in just two hours. It was 8:30 am in the time zone of our opponents from India. We worried that the time difference will be in their favor. Moreover, after the semifinal we were not able to sleep either, because almost immediately, we received information that the judges unanimously (3:0) voted for us and we were going through to the final, which was scheduled to take place within an hour. It was a very intensive night of hard work, but we all were waiting impatiently, keeping our fingers crossed for every subsequent result announcement.

Another significant aspect of all negotiation sessions was the fact that all participants represented different continents and different cultures. Therefore, an additional challenge was to respect cross-cultural differences and to understand that exchanging information or forms of negotiation may differ in different countries. We had to be sensitive and ensure that we do not, unintentionally, offend anyone with our approach to the negotiations or to the business.

This success is the result of many months of hard work and other wins in international competitions. In July 2020, students from SWPS University’s School of Law won the 3rd place at the international mediation tournament organized by INARD in Vilnius, and the 2nd best advocate/client award in the same competition in 2019. Additionally, our students took the 1st place in the mediUJ Competition organized by the Jagiellonian University in Kraków in 2020. The ICC Competition in Hong Kong have shown how important mediation can be for parties that come form different parts of the world. Thanks to mediation, the parties who often have opposing interests, may find common ground and start talking from neutral positions.

Tomasz P. Antoszek, Ph.D., team coach, mediator, Head of the Department of Private Law at SWPS University in Poznań

 

What have you learned during the competition?

K.G., A.H., K.L., P.S.: For sure it strengthened us as a team. It brought us closer together and allowed us to improve our team work skills, which are very important in this type of competition. Although only two team members could compete in every heat, we all worked very hard on all case studies. One of the evaluation criteria was ‘team cooperation’, and the judges scored us very highly on this element.

Here, we would also like to emphasize the role of our coach, Tomasz P. Antoszek, Ph.D., who stood by us and supported us throughout the competition. He helped us to prepare for each round of the competition, even those that took place late at night or at wee hours of the morning.

During all rounds we were learning legal argumentation and solving business disagreements. We have also gained an understanding of how important the ability to build consensus and defend one’s own interests, while maintaining good business relationship, is. Additionally, the online format of the competition was very demanding, because we had to communicate well with other members of our team, with our opponents, and with the professional mediator. It was a unique experience and we will be able to transfer these skills to our professional work in the current situation, because increasingly often, lawyers use online communication tools while working with their clients and other legal representatives.

What’s next? What are your plans for the future?

Tomasz P. Antoszek, Ph.D.: This success is the result of many months of hard work and other wins in international competitions. In July 2020, students from SWPS University’s School of Law won the 3rd place at the international mediation tournament organized by INARD in Vilnius, and the 2nd best advocate/client award in the same competition in 2019. Additionally, our students took the 1st place in the mediUJ Competition organized by the Jagiellonian University in Kraków in 2020. The ICC Competition in Hong Kong have shown how important mediation can be for parties that come form different parts of the world. Thanks to mediation, the parties who often have opposing interests, may find common ground and begin talking from neutral positions.

In February 2021, we will participate in the ICC Competition in Paris, and in July we are going to Vienna, unfortunately only virtually, to take part in the CDRC Vienna competition, organized by the Vienna International Arbitral Centre (VIAC), in Austria. We also have plans to spread our wings further and participate in arbitration competitions and we hope that you will hear about us again.

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