Interview : In Conversation with the Winner of 27th Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot 2020

Ashika Jain , Kaira Pinheiro, Anand Krishnan Sunil, Sahaj Mathur - NUJS



On 9th April, 2020 NUJS team consisting of Ashika Jain from the Class of 2023, Kaira Pinheiro from the Class of 2023,     Anand Krishnan from the Class of 2023 and Sahaj Mathur from the Class of 2024 has emerged as the   Winner  of the 27th Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court Competition,2020 which is one of the largest and most prestigious mooting competitions in the world.


1.  What was the primary motivation behind choosing to do the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot 2020?

Kaira- Both Ashika and I had done arbitration moots prior to our stint in 2020. Ashika had participated as a speaker in the NLS Arbitration Moot 2019, while I had been a researcher in the Vis East Moot, 2019. Due to our prior experience, we were both passionate about arbitration and were extremely fortunate to qualify as per our university moot internals process and to represent NUJS at the Vis Vienna International Commercial Arbitration Moot 2020. This moot served as the perfect opportunity to not only research further on our areas of interest but also to meet and present our arguments before immensely esteemed arbitrators and legal luminaries.

2. How was the process of preparation? How did you go about the entire stage? 

Anand- Before the problem released, our team along with the Vis Hong Kong team had divided ourselves into 2 teams which would deal with the merit and arbitration parts. We read up on the commentaries on the Convention on International Sales of Goods and on the London Court of International Arbitration rules. By the team the problem released, we had a basic idea about the laws. There were 2 issues each on both arbitration and on merits. We divided it further where a group of 2 persons would do 1 issue. This was our strategy for the first memorial submission which happened in December. After seeing that this method wasn’t as effective as we thought it would be, the smaller groups worked on both the issues separately. This method worked better and thus we were able to be done with the second memorial a week before the submission.

We started with speaking practice after this. We had truly wonderful seniors and alumni who were delighted to take practice sessions for us. We recognized the problems with some of the arguments we were running through this practice. The pre-moot in Jindal also opened us up into the arguments that were being run by the other teams. We tried to take and modify arguments which made sense to us or which we overlooked. We had to leave to our respective homes because of COVID-19. We started doing practice sessions in our homes and also with other teams. By the time the moot started, we had done a good amount of speaking sessions. After every round in the moot, we called each other and discussed about the way the other team presented arguments. The arguments got smoother and in the final rounds, it was honestly amazing to see how developed the arguments had become. Although we were in our homes, we shared the excitement when advanced in each round and when we finally won the moot.

3. How was it like working with the team? What do you think are your team’s fortes? What were the roadblocks?

Anand- We were a pretty diverse team as we were from all parts of India. Although most of us were from the same batch and one team member was from a junior batch, we were never really close before the moot. We think that the team was a very good team as all of us were pretty serious about the moot and the kind of commitment it would take on our college life. We got to bond pretty well over topics as random as equality of parties and suspicion of goods. The only pre-moot we did together was the one which was organised by Jindal University. All of us felt that we started to see the problem in a different angle and got us pumped for the actual moot. We did not face any roadblocks in the team as all of us worked together really well. The only roadblock we faced as a team was the inability to travel to Europe. All of us were looking forward to the trip and were disappointed when that did not happen. But altogether it was a great experience.

4. How many teams were you up against in the competition ?

Sahaj- We participated against 3 teams in the preliminary rounds of the competition. After qualifying for the knockout rounds, we faced 6 more teams including the finals. The total number of teams that participated in the oral rounds this year was 248.

5. Students mostly are too scared and hesitating while participating in moot court due to intense research work. What are the basics of researching? 

Sahaj- While it is true that mooting requires a lot of commitment and work, the research work is sometimes not as intense as a lot of students may believe. The intensity of the work depends on various factors such as time, division of work and planning. Furthermore, most major moot court competitions provide for a significant time for preparation of memorials and preparation for the speaking rounds. It is important to plan well in advance in order to fully utilize the time at hand. Therefore, although being a major commitment due to the time it requires, students should not be hesitant in participating in moot court competitions solely due to the possibility of intense research work. Although the work required to participate in a moot is significant, if a student judiciously prepares for a moot over a longer period of time, they would not feel the burden of intense research work. Students also acquire invaluable research skills over the course of the process, which would be extremely beneficial in their law school life. The basics of researching firstly involves starting with preliminary readings regarding the branch of law by reading authoritative commentaries on the same. After this it is advisable to read the Moot Court problem, and identify the specific subject matter of the law that is addressed by the problem, and read commentaries, journal articles and other authoritative sources on the same. This should be followed by identifying the legal issues of the moot problem, and specifically researching on those issues. Finally, researching would involve coherently addressing the facts of the problem through the law in order to support the side that one is arguing for.

6.  How important is mooting in a law student’s career? What message would you like to pass on to the mooters and the non-mooters?


Ashika- There are many who over-emphasise the importance of mooting in law schools, however I do not agree with that notion. I believe mooting, like all other activities, is a personal choice that students make. It requires intense research for a span about 4-6 months which some people enjoy and others do not. At the end of the day, it boils down to the concerned individual’s preferences. Having said that, I think this activity really pushes an individual to go beyond basic research and delve into the nuances of the law. It requires critical thinking and a presence of mind, as the questions during the oral grounds quite often throw us off guard. This is especially applicable in moots like Vis where you argue before arbitrators from all across the globe. Another advantage of mooting is that it allows you to discover areas of law that interest you which might not be covered in the course of your academics. It is believed by some to be especially useful for those who want to enter litigation after law school.

My only message to mooters is to enjoy the process of mooting which starts with analysing the problem, researching on different areas of law and ends with making persuasive arguments before judges, just to be grilled by them! It is imperative to enjoy every limb of the process to make the most of it. It can indeed be one of your most fond memories of law school. For non-mooters, I would urge them to not be bogged down by stereotypes regarding the significance of mooting and how law school is incomplete without it, if their environment has any of them. Every law student must definitely give it a shot, since the skills you learn from it are invaluable. However, as I said at the very outset, it should eventually be your personal choice and not anyone else’s.

7. Final comments on the level of competition and the organisation of the competition.

Ashika- This was the 27th Vis moot and also the 1st virtual one. Naturally, the competition that we received was challenging and constantly kept us on our toes. We found our arguments to be evolving in each round as we interacted with myriad teams and got feedback from arbitrators coming from different jurisprudential backgrounds. With respect to the organisation, we were, at the outset, extremely glad and grateful about the fact the moot was not cancelled and the organisers decided to conduct it virtually. It was organised very efficiently and despite the heavy reliance on technology which many of us were not very familiar with, the assistance from the organisers led to a smooth and timely conduct of the competition. We had technical assistance available for each round, in case any of the teams/arbitrators faced difficulties. The organisers also had a pool of substitute arbitrators ready in case any arbitrator was unable to join the round. Overall, the competition was very well organised by the Vis Moot Organisation.


8. Any other thing you would like to mention about the moot and how Covid 19 will affect the Moot Court Scenario in upcoming days ?

Kaira- We personally believe that the Vis Moot organisation performed an incredible job of successfully carrying out such a large-scale competition online. Given that international borders are unlikely to open up in the near future, there is good reason to believe that a majority of moot court competitions may have to take place online this year. The pandemic has pushed dispute resolution into the virtual world, right from online court hearings to international arbitrations as well. The moot court scenario is sure to adapt to the COVID 19 situation in a similar manner.

Link to the Team Moot Memorials:

Claimant Memo – Click here

Respondent  Memo – Click here 


Details of the Team Members:

  1. Ashika Jain, 3rd year ( Linkedin )

Areas of interest: International Commercial Arbitration, Constitutional Law

  1. Kaira Pinheiro, 3rd year ( Linkedin )

Areas of interest: International Commercial Arbitration, Data Privacy

  1. Anand Krishnan Sunil, 3rd year ( Linkedin )

Areas of interest: International Commercial Arbitration, Intellectual Property Rights

  1. Sahaj Mathur, 2nd year 

Areas of interest: International Commercial Arbitration, Public International law


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