Young ICCA Mentoring Programme: Mentoring groups meet for Written and Oral Advocacy Workshop

By Ms. Hjördis Birna Hjartardóttir, Deputy Counsel at the Secretariat of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and Ms. Mari Vanhanen, Senior Associate at Roschier, Attorneys Ltd.


Young ICCA Mentors Klaus Reichert and Andrew Clarke with Mentoring Group

Young ICCA Mentoring Programme advocacy workshop participants at the World Bank premises in Paris on 2 March 2018. First row from left to right: Ruth Marie Mosch, Anastasiya Ugale, Zena Prodromou. Second row from left to right: Michael Farchakh, Nadine Lederer, Hjördis Birna Hjartardóttir. Third row from left to right: Konrad Staeger, Klaus Reichert, Mari Vanhanen, Andrew Clarke. 


"Tell a story. Make irresistible arguments that are full of common sense.

Look like a winner. Be comfortable in your space.

Engage with the arbitral tribunal and keep eye contact. Be firm, but not aggressive.

Do not wiggle. And if wiggle you must, wiggle your toes inside your shoes."


These were just a few pieces of advice provided to a group of Mentees during a Young ICCA Mentoring Programme advocacy workshop in March 2018. The workshop was a valuable learning experience, which we are very happy to share with the readers of the Young ICCA blog.


How to capture and hold the arbitral tribunal’s attention? How to get your points effectively across? How to persuade the arbitral tribunal that your client’s position is the right one? These are questions that advocates constantly ask themselves. And rightly so. Effective advocacy is key to success in today’s world of international arbitration. The problem facing many young lawyers, however, is that they rarely get an opportunity to plead before courts and arbitral tribunals during their early careers. How does one learn the art of oral advocacy without real-life practice?


One solution is to offer more practical advocacy training to young lawyers. This year, two groups from the Young ICCA Mentoring Programme joined forces to do just that, i.e., to provide six Mentees with a rare opportunity to participate in an interactive one-day advocacy workshop at the World Bank premises in Paris. The workshop was organized by the Mentors Mr. Andrew Clarke and Mr. Klaus Reichert, SC, and the Buddies Ms. Ruth Marie Mosch and Ms. Anastasiya Ugale.


To prepare for the workshop, the Mentees were given two written assignments based on a hypothetical investment arbitration case. First, each participant was asked to prepare an individual written submission on one substantive aspect of the case, for example, whether a violent act by a protest group was attributable to the respondent State. Second, each group of Mentees was asked to collectively prepare an expert report on whether the arbitral tribunal had jurisdiction to hear the claims. A strict three-page limit was imposed on both written assignments. While concise, the submissions were expected to make a comprehensive argument on the points identified. 


The workshop itself was split into a morning session and an afternoon session. The morning session started with feedback on the written submissions, followed by the oral presentations. Each mentee presented his/her arguments to the Mentors and the Buddies who acted as the arbitral tribunal and gave feedback and suggestions for improvement. The afternoon session was devoted to the cross-examination of expert witnesses, which is one of the most challenging aspects of advocacy in international arbitration. Each Mentee took on the role of counsel cross-examining the expert witness, while others took turns being the expert witness. Again, the Mentors and Buddies provided valuable feedback and suggestions for improvement.


One of the things the Mentees learned was that, when faced with a well-prepared counsel who asks all the right questions, the seat of the expert witness is not at all comfortable. Likewise, the Mentees experienced first-hand that an unprepared counsel asking too broad or otherwise ill-advised questions to an expert witness may be a recipe for disaster (and some laughter in this case). It all comes down to thorough preparation which allows counsel to avoid the pitfalls of cross-examination.


The Mentees all agreed that the advocacy workshop was a great success and that they had learned some very valuable lessons about advocacy. One of the participants, Ms. Nadine Lederer, Associate at Hogan Lovells in Munich, described the experience as follows: "I benefited immensely from the advocacy workshop which allowed me to connect with and learn from other arbitration practitioners. The constructive workshop and individual feedback given by the Mentors, who shared their practical experience and knowledge with us, was very valuable to me.“


According to another Mentee, Mr. Michael Farchakh, Trainee at Quinn Emanuel in Paris: “One of the things I very much liked about the workshop was that each participant came from a different country/jurisdiction and I think that this reflected itself in the different styles and approaches to advocacy. I especially felt this when I played the role of the expert for the purposes of the cross examination exercise; each of the examining counsel presented me with a very different challenge in the way the questions were put to me and in the way I had to interact with them.”


We could not agree more with Nadine and Michael. We encourage other Young ICCA Mentors and mentoring groups to consider the possibility of joining forces and organizing events together, be it trainings on advocacy or something else. Not only do these events allow Mentees to learn new skills, but they also provide opportunities to connect with colleagues outside of their own group and expand their network in the field of arbitration. We highly recommend it!  


And remember: Don’t wiggle!