Young ICCA Webinars: Advocacy for Young Practitioners: Tips on Preparation and Delivery of Opening and Closing Arguments in an International Arbitration

11 November 202012:00 - 13:00(CET)

This webinar was organised in collaboration with the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC).



  • Chengjie Wang, Vice Chairman & Secretary General, CIETAC;
  • Mahesh Rai, Deputy Head, Construction & Engineering, Director, Dispute Resolution, Drew & Napier LLC;
  • Fang Zhao, Partner, Hui Zhong Law Firm;
  • Shalaka Patil, Principal Associate, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas; and
  • Kate Apostolova, Senior Associate, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer


Structure of the Webinar:

The webinar commences with two senior arbitration practitioners giving tips and tricks on written and oral advocacy and the role of the younger practitioner. This is followed by a practical exercise in which two speakers present opening arguments on the basis of a mock case which was provided in advance to registered participants. The faculty discuss the presentations and then take questions from the participants on the issues discussed during the webinar.

Post Event Report

By Barış Han Özkan and Celine Cheng


On November 11, Young ICCA and the China International Economic and Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) held a webinar to provide tips on preparation and delivery of opening and closing arguments in international arbitration for young practitioners. 


The webinar was organized by Young ICCA’s Global Events Director Rahul Donde, Events Coordinator Masaki Kawasaki, and CIETAC’s Deputy Secretary General Brad Wang. The faculty of the webinar consisted of Mr. Chengjie Wang (Vice Chairman & Secretary General, CIETAC),  Mr. Mahesh Rai (Deputy Head, Construction& Engineering, Director, Dispute Resolution, Drew & Napier LLC), Ms. Fang Zhao (Partner, Hui Zhong Law Firm), Ms. Shalaka Patil (Principal Associate, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas), and Ms. Kate Apostolova (Senior Associate, Freshfields Bruchaus Deringer). The first part of the webinar featured presentations on written and oral statements. In the second part, the Ms. Patil and Ms. Apostolova presented opening statements in a mock trial.


Following the opening remarks of Mr. Rahul Donde, Mr. Chengjie Wang welcomed the participants. Mr. Wang explained the work CIETAC has been doing over the years. Mr. Wang also stated that CIETAC was very happy about its collaboration with Young ICCA, and is very eager for the future colabrations of these two organisations.


In the first presentation, Mr. Mahesh Rai spoke about written advocacy, in which he explained that written advocacy offered a first chance to persuade the arbitrators to rule in your client's favor. This makes written advocacy extremely important. However, he pointed out that this is usually overlooked by younger practitioners. Mr. Rai also explained that a well-written submission must be simple and clear, and should not confuse the arbitrators. Following his introduction, Mr. Rai pointed out five crucial points for written advocacy: 

  • An organized structure helps the arbitrators understand your submission better. Roadmaps, headings, and subheadings are important. Headings should explain your points and correspond to your roadmap. Also, write in a logical order to keep the readers’ focus on the main issues. 
  • It is important to state your conclusions upfront and create powerful beginnings to each of your sections. Readers usually lose focus at the end of paragraphs.  
  • An important rule is “less is more.” The longer you write, the more the reader loses focus on your submission. To create a shorter statement, delete all unnecessary words, including adverbs and redundant phrases. Moreover, hyperbolic language may make the reader question the integrity of your story. Stick to the facts.
  • Know your audience. Arbitrators are experts in their areas. Do not over-argue your point by telling them what the law says; doing so might insult the tribunal.
  • Be professional; do not make grammatical mistakes or typographical errors. Poor drafting leads to an image of sloppiness. Over-citation distracts the reader. In many cases, one citation is enough. The “less is more rule” applies here also.


In the next presentation, Ms. Fang Zhao shared her views on what oral advocacy is. . She explained that “effective persuasion” requires a lawyer to first persuade herself by preparing her own case thoroughly. Once a lawyer is fully convinced herself, she may move on to persuade others, including the tribunal. Ms. Zhao cited Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication (“Rule”) and emphasized that a speaker’s words are only a fraction of her efforts in communication . Effective communication consists 7% of spoken words, 38% of the pitch and tone of the speaker’s voice, and 55% of the speaker’s body language. Ms. Zhao suggested practitioners apply the Rule, be confident and open, and use pauses and silences to impress the tribunal. In addition to oral skills, Ms. Zhao highlighted the significance of cross-references to bundles when preparing for the submissions. Lastly, Ms. Zhao encouraged practitioners to be simple, straightforward, and have confidence in ourselves—and she also emphasized that “sometimes less is more.”


In the second part of the Webinar, Ms. Shalaka Patil and Ms. Kate Apostolova presented opening statements for mock-parties, based on a case study that was presented to the participants earlier. Ms. Patil presented the claimant’s opening statement, summarizing the main points of their argument. She stuck to the facts of the case and focused the arbitrator's attention on exhibits to support her speech. Her statement was a good demonstration of the advice given in the earlier presentations.

Ms. Kate Apostolova represented the respondent in the mock trial exercise. By giving the audience a clear roadmap at the beginning of her presentation, Ms. Apostolova skillfully laid down the facts in favor of the respondent, applied those facts to the claimant’s claims and explained why the claimant’s claims must fail. Ms. Apostolova directed the tribunal’s attention to the exhibit(s) she referenced, and answered tribunal’s questions promptly and in an affirmative manner. Finally, , she quickly turned to the respondent’s counterclaims and pleaded that the tribunal rule in the respondent’s favor.


At the end of the Webinar, the panelists answered questions from the participants on a variety of issues including, the scope of the opening statement, getting the arbitrator's attention, how best to summarizes and highlight the main points of a case and the importance of participating in moot court competitions. 


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