Why you should not miss the 21st Vis East Moot, Hong Kong

Cesar Pereira C.Arb FCIArb and  Cristina Mastrobuono FCIArb meet with Louise Barrington C.Arb FCIArb and Ingeborg Schwenzer to discuss what participants can expect to gain from the Vis East Moot (10-17 March 2024). 

What is Vis East Moot (Vis East) all about?   

Louise: Vis East is an annual arbitration competition like Vis Moot (Vis) in Vienna. It is, in fact, an educational experience in the guise of a competition. Vis was originally set up by a cohort of law professors who wanted to grow general awareness and understanding of what was, at the time, a new law, the 1980 Vienna Convention for the Sale of Goods (CISG). The CISG was created under the auspices of the United National Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and is the most important outcome of an international effort to standardise the rules of private law in a particular sector. 

The participants, or Mooties as they are commonly known at Vis East and Vis, comprise several teams of students. The teams are presented with a problem. They then compete to win the argument. To win, they need to study and apply the CISG. While the competitive element of Vis and Vis East makes the experience tremendously good fun, the arbitration, which takes place over seven days, is very real.  

In what way does competing in Vis East Moot benefit students?  

Louise: Mooties gain fabulous experience and the opportunity to practice and hone professional skills such as research, analysis, issues identification, drafting, and oral advocacy. They also put practical skills such as time management and working to a deadline to the test. 

Ingeborg: Vis East is a life-changing experience for many students, not only professionally but also on a personal level. It is an incredible learning experience; it trains the soft skills that are never taught at law schools, and participating in Vis East is, in many instances, the first step on the ladder of an international professional career in arbitration. 

Louise: It’s true, we shouldn’t underestimate the learnings that can’t be taught at any school. At Vis East, I see students arrive on their first day each year understandably nervous and unsure of themselves. Their biggest challenge is often knowing where to sit, how to address the arbitrator and whether they should shake hands with the arbitrators. Fast forward four days into Vis East, and these students know exactly what they are doing. They are confident and eloquent. It is a miraculous learning curve. Watching students learn and develop over just four days is what sold me the Vis educational experience. It is so efficient at getting those soft skills across, skills that some students graduate without and have never heard of before.   

Ingeborg: Participating in the Vis Moot puts students on the radar of international law firms; it acts as a door opener to many of the big firms. Law firms recognise that with a Vis Moot under their belt, students will have acquired those essential soft skills for the workplace. 

Louise: Vis East also presents participants with an unrivalled opportunity to build their reputation and make international connections. The social side of Vis East Moot is one of the most important aspects of the experience. Many students at Vis East have travelled away from home for the first time. Participating at Vis East gives them an intercultural understanding and a chance to make friends that will last a lifetime. My first experience of a moot was in Vienna in the late 1990s. As a reasonably young arbitrator, I was thrilled to be in the company of the Gods of arbitration; I was meeting the authors of the books I had studied. 

What can participants expect to experience at Vis East Moot? 

Louise: They can expect hard work, an intellectual challenge and a lot of fun! While the competition takes place over seven days, the research, analysis, and problem-solving involved in competing will span six months. To give you an idea of the timing, registration takes place between the end of September and the end of November, and Vis East officially starts when the problem is published in early October each year. The teams have until mid to end of January to submit their Respondent’s Memorandum. The main event, a seven-day competition, is held in March in Hong Kong. In 2024, Vis East Moot will take place from 10 to 17 March. For further information, visit Vis East Moot. 

We are approaching the 21st Vis East Moot. How has the event changed since it started 20 years ago? 

Ingeborg: If you look back 20 years, or even with Vis in Vienna, 30 years, you will realise that participants were mainly European and American. There were no teams from Latin America, no teams from Asia. Students from Asia only really started participating with the launch of Vis East. I still remember arbitrating for the first Chinese, Japanese, and Indian teams in Hong Kong. In some cases, their grasp of the English language presented a challenge; in others, the lack of experience in international court proceedings was the main challenge. Today, the level of professionalism in these teams and their grasp of the English language is impressive, and our focus has moved to other countries in Asia, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal, where Louise is running capacity-building programs and bringing the teams to Hong Kong so that they also have the opportunity to experience this international event. 

How important is the CISG in Latin America, and how can Latin American teams and arbitrators benefit from participating at Vis East? 

Ingeborg: The study of CISG is of international relevance. For all law students, irrespective of their geography, the gain they can expect to make through participating at Vis East is an improved and in-depth knowledge of the CISG. The knowledge they acquire and the experience they have makes them fit to practice internationally, representing, for example, Latin American companies in international negotiations and disputes in Asia and worldwide. The CISG now has 95 member states, and almost all Latin American countries are member states of the CISG except for a few, including Venezuela and Bolivia. 

The CISG is an essential tool for Latin American countries and lawyers; Latin American parties benefit because they often do not have the superior bargaining power of companies based in Europe or the USA, so they cannot impose their law on the other party. A Brazilian party, for example, will hardly be able to impose Brazilian law on a European party. But with the CISG, the Brazilian party can point to a joint common law, the CISG, which is better than that party having to agree to the law of an American State or some unknown European law. So, the CISG enhances the bargaining power of the Latin American party with respect to those parties with superior bargaining power from the US or Europe. I have noticed that many Latin American companies now choose to include the CISG in their standard terms and conditions. 

Louise: Arbitration is an international practice that supports and facilitates international trade. Under the New York Convention 1958, arbitration has become uniquely appropriate for resolving cross-border disputes. Latin America buys and sells internationally, and it has worldwide commercial partners. China is, I believe, one of Brazil’s most prominent commercial partners. That makes student participants' experience at Vis East Moot directly relevant. At Vis East, student participants will make some of their first contacts with colleagues in other parts of the world and gain first-hand experience with different legal systems that will set them in good stead in the next stage of their careers. 

Cesar: That is an interesting point. In practice and in real life, we come across many contracts involving Asian companies. We also come across many contracts providing for arbitration in Asia under Asian institutions’ arbitration rules. It is fantastic to be able to be at Vis East in Hong Kong, make connections and forge relationships with people from the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre,  and China International Economic Trade and Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), for example, and then leverage those connections and contact you have developed at a later point in your career.  

Ingeborg: I think what is so important for the students is that Vis East exposes them to arbitrators from Western countries and arbitrators from China, Hong Kong and Singapore. It’s the different thinking they come across, not only the legal thinking but also the behaviour of arbitrators from other parts of the world. The students learn that no matter the arbitrator's background, whether from Asia, Latin America, a common law country, or a civil law country, the students must convince them of the client’s case. They acquire the knowledge and ability to adjust to these different environments, something they will have to do during their professional career. 

Any parting words of advice for potential mooties? 

Louise: Do not hesitate before signing up to Vis East Moot. You should remember that it will be a lot of work and a huge commitment, but after that initial hesitation, you should dive in and give it your very best, and it will return a thousand-fold. 


Ciarb’s Executive Director of Membership and Education, Nina Fletcher, says, “The Moots are a fantastic way for experienced arbitrators to share their expertise and contribute to inspiring and shaping future generations of dispute resolution professionals. For those earlier in their neutral careers, sitting as an arbitrator is an opportunity to practise skills and learn from others in a vibrant and exciting environment.  The competition rounds and wide range of social events on offer also provide unique opportunities for arbitrators to interact and connect with other professionals from around the world and expand their networks.”   

Ciarb is delighted to co-host again the London Pre-Moot, and to sponsor the Vis East Moot and Vis Moot. 

All are actively recruiting arbitrators, and we encourage Ciarb members to participate.  

Apply online for: 

London Pre-Moot – 24 to 25 February 2024 

Vis East Moot – 10 to 17 March 2024 

Vis Moot – 22 to 28 March 2024 


About the speakers: 

Louise Barrington C.Arb FCIArb has over 30 years of experience as an independent arbitrator and combines her ADR practice with academic pursuits. Louise is well-versed in ad hoc and institutional arbitrations and is a member of Arbitration Place (Canada) and Littleton Chambers (UK). Louise taught American Business Law in Paris as well as arbitration, mediation, and international and commercial law around the globe. She also speaks regularly on the topics of international arbitration at conferences worldwide. Louise teaches worldwide arbitration and international sales law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto (Canada).  

Ingeborg Schwenzer is Dean of the Swiss International Law School and Professor emerita of Private Law at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor at Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia, and has been an adjunct professor at City University, Hong Kong, and at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. She is the editor and main contributor to the world's leading Commentary on the Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG). She also co-authored the recently published second edition of Global Sales and Contract Law. Ingeborg regularly acts as arbitrator, counsel and legal expert in international disputes. 

Cesar Pereira C.Arb FCIArb is the immediate past chair of Ciarb Brazil Branch. He is a partner at Justen, Pereira, Oliveira & Talamini (Brazil), co-heading the firm’s infrastructure and arbitration practice. His work as counsel, arbitrator, or legal expert focuses on infrastructure projects, regulated industries, public procurement and international contracts, and related dispute resolution. In addition, he has authored or edited numerous articles, chapters, and books in these fields. Cesar holds a doctorate in public law from PUC-SP (Brazil) and has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University, University of Nottingham and George Washington University. 

Cristina Mastrobuono FCIArb is vice chair of Ciarb Brazil Branch.  She is an arbitrator and legal consultant with a large experience in the public sector.  She is a JD from Universidade de Sao Paulo and holds an LLM degree from the University of Chicago. Former Vice Chair of the Legal Department of the State of Sao Paulo, she has occupied various high-profile positions across practice areas, including Infrastructure, Public-Private Partnerships, Concessions, Arbitration, Corporate, and Finance & Tax.  Founding partner of Cristina Mastrobuoni Advogados, she acts as arbitrator in proceedings related to the infrastructure sector and coordinates the Infrawomen Brazil Mediation and Arbitration Committee.  

This article is an edited transcript of a video interview published on Canal Arbitragem.