It’s one of the most daunting legal theatres on Earth, a place where countries and states go head to head over points of international law, with the best lawyers in the world on centre stage.
How much more daunting then must The International Court of Justice (ICJ) be for mere law students who subject themselves to its forensic analysis, unrelenting questioning and uncompromising standards as part of the Jessup Moot?
Of course, the ICJ is based in The Hague, Netherlands, while the Jessup Moot is based in Canberra, Australia; but with several of Australia’s top international lawyers leading the cross-examinations, and judicial processes and a physical environment replicated in minute detail, it is as challenging an environment as most lawyers are ever likely to face.
Four Flinders University law students got first-hand experience of that environment recently when they pitted their legal skills against students from the most successful and well-resourced law schools in Australia in Canberra.
The team, comprising of Emma Gorman, Olivia D’Arienzo, Marina William and Jacqueline Lau, won a moot for the first time and were named the Best Newcomer Team. They also won the Spirit of Jessup Award, which is voted for by the participating students.
Participation in the Jessup Moot involves months of preparation, with all of the teams having to submit detailed documentation in advance of arguing their cases in Canberra.
Dr Grant Niemann, Senior Lecturer in Law at Flinders University, is particularly well placed to assess just how difficult the Moot is. Dr Niemann was first Senior Trial Attorney of the International criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia before coming to Flinders.
He practically glows with pride as he talks about the commitment and determination of the Flinders team, and of how they held their own against some of the most prestigious law schools in Australia.
“Success at the Jessup Moot is highly sought after and achieving this success is heavily invested in by the participating universities, some of whom are very well resourced,” he said.
“For a team from a smaller university like Flinders to not only compete, but also to win a moot is a remarkable achievement because it takes a special kind of commitment to bridge that resources gap.
“It’s quite a moving experience to see one of your students up there, fearlessly slugging it out with teams that, to be perfectly frank, have a lot of advantages over them.”
Michael Swanson, the team’s coach, said he was particularly proud of their achievement.
“The Australian National Rounds of the Jessup moot constitute one of the strongest and toughest mooting competitions in Australia and the world,” he said.
“Finishing 13th out of 19 in a very strong field is an amazing achievement, earned through long nights with textbooks and more than one all-nighter in the Law computer lab.
Mr Swanson said that winning the Spirit of Jessup award was deserved recognition that the Flinders team had excelled against teams with much greater resources.
“Unlike other universities, the Flinders team partially funding their own expenses,” he said.
“In recognition of their efforts, they received the Spirit of Jessup award – the second time Flinders has won this award – for the team that faced the most adversity.
“It’s a remarkable achievement and everyone at Flinders Law School is very proud of them.”