Successful International Commercial Arbitration Competition Hosted at American University Washington College of Law

More Than 200 Students and 150 Arbitrators and Coaches Participate in Spanish-Language Event

In early October, student competitors from the University Externado de Colombia won the Fifth Annual International Commercial Arbitration Competition hosted by the Center on International Commercial Arbitration at American University Washington College of Law.

The competition, conducted exclusively in Spanish, promoted the study of international commercial law and arbitration as a means of conflict resolution in international business. More than 200 students from 39 law schools participated in addition to more than 150 arbitrators and coaches.

The law school co-organized the event alongside the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, and the University of El Rosario in Columbia. Some competitors came from countries where Spanish is not the official language, including Columbia University, the University of Miami, Sciences Po in France, and the University of Curitiba in Brazil.

Susana Castiglione, assistant director of the Center on International Commercial Arbitration, said that this competition helps students get the necessary experiential education that arbitration requires.

“Arbitration is a procedure that is confidential. People choose to arbitrate because they don’t want the proceedings, the process, the conflict, or the issue to be public,” Castiglione said. “When two companies are in a conflict, and appoint an arbitrator to solve the dispute, privacy and confidentiality is important, so you cannot just walk into an arbitration hearing and see how it works. Additionally, advocacy in the context of international arbitration presents unique challenges. We organize practical programs for participants to see how an arbitration actually works and practice essential advocacy skills.”

“The competition was great—you are nervous—but when you’re up there you forget all about it.”

Maria Angelica Cruz Cuevas, coach of the winning team from University Externado de Colombia, said that a lot of time is spent preparing for this type of competition.

“We started practicing in February when the case for the competition came out, and we usually start working about three to four times a week with the students,” Cruz said.

In addition to their victory at American University Washington College of Law, the University Externado de Colombia team were finalists in a May moot court competition in Paris.

“It was a more challenging experience in terms of language because the competition was in French, so it had that extra something that made it a little more difficult, but it was a beautiful experience also,” Cruz said.

Manuela Canal Silva, a member of the winning team, said she enjoyed competing even though the preparation was rigorous.

“The competition was great, you are nervous, but when you’re up there you forget all about it and you just start talking,” Canal Silva said.

“Now that I’ve been able to see a few of these competitions, it weds me even more to doing arbitration for the rest of my life.”

The team of students from American University Washington College of Law also did well in the competition. Team members Fernando Ortega, Jorge Vera, Estefania San Juan, Jessica Lynd, Joanne Baxter, Athena Arbes, and Daniel Parga advanced to the quarterfinals, placing sixth overall. Ricardo Chirinos and Caroline Richard of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP coached the team.

According to Benjamin Spink, a second year law student, and member of the American Bar Association Arbitration Team for the Society for Dispute Resolution, hosting the competition at the law school has inspired him to pursue a career in international arbitration.

“I think it’s really great that they’re doing this in Spanish because it shows the diversity of our school,” Spink said. “I was very intrigued with arbitration just as a concept but had no idea how it actually worked. Now that I’ve been able to see a few of these competitions, it weds me even more to doing arbitration for the rest of my life. I can foresee doing it internationally now that I’ve seen competitions in other languages.”

Sponsors of the competition included the Arbitration and Mediation Center of the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce; the International Center for Dispute Resolution; the Inter-American Commercial Arbitration Commission; Arnold & Porter LLP; Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP; DJ Arbitraje; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. More information can be found on the competition website.