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Tuesday 13 June 2023 11:30am

moot story
Competing at the Jessup international moot competition in Washington DC, from left, Dr Lucas Clover Alcolea (coach), Lydia Joseph, Josef Strauss and Rebecca Bridgman.

Thanks to a fabulous team effort by Otago alumni, students and staff, Te Kaupeka Tātai Ture Faculty of Law students' moot team had a very successful trip to Washington DC in April, to compete at the Jessup International Law Moot Competition.

After winning the Aotearoa New Zealand law students' national moot court competition earlier this year, giving them entry to the international competition, the team of Lydia Joseph, Rebecca Bridgman and Josef Strauss made it through to the elimination rounds of 48 teams – which had been their goal before leaving. They achieved a ranking of 17th out of 135 international teams at the competition.

It's the first time Otago has won the national moot competition since 2017, and the best result overall for Otago for more than 20 years. Otago's Associate Professor Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere, the moot convenor for the University, says Jessup is the “Olympics of moot competitions”. He says winning the national event was the product of countless hours of hard work and is an incredible achievement for the team. “I'm confident we can do it again this year!”

Josef says they didn't know what to expect at the international level, and it was a “very busy and very intense” week.

“I didn't know how we were going to go. I wasn't sure what the level of the other teams would be like, so we were really happy to do ourselves proud.”

Otago law lecturer and travelling team coach Dr Lucas Clover Alcolea, says their result is “no mean feat, given that approximately 700 [regional] teams register for the Jessup overall”.

He says the Jessup is the premiere public international law moot and a stamp of achievement in the global law community.

“I very much see the Jessup as an opportunity to be part of an international family that cares about the rule of law and to meet people from every jurisdiction you can think of, and then some, which is a particularly valuable opportunity for students from a land (almost) at the end of the world.”

Lydia says judges commented on their calm, level-headed and conversational style. “Our natural traits as Kiwis really helped us.”

The team particularly enjoyed meeting people from so many different cultures. To reach the elimination rounds they competed against students from universities in Lebanon, Iraq, Bangladesh and the University of Pennsylvania, some of whom had first-hand experience of the moot topics.

“The issues we were arguing about and had been working through, a lot of the teams we were versing were actually facing these issues in their daily lives. One of the big issues was the legality of economic sanctions, and the Lebanese girls were like 'our country is facing so many economic sanctions' and talking about the impact on their lives,” says Rebecca.

“It was very challenging in a lot of ways, but such an incredible experience, I don't think you can do anything else like it.”

The trip was made possible by the generous financial support of Alumni of the University of Otago in America (AUOA), and alumni who are themselves former Jessup competitors.

“This is a wonderful example of our alumni working together with our students to help enhance their education and widen their horizons. We're very grateful to AUOA and the Jessup alumni for their generosity in making this trip happen and giving our students such a valuable experience at the beginning of their careers,” says Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Shelagh Murray.

moot story 2
The AUOA and NZ Embassy joined together to host the team at a reception in Washington DC. From left, Rebecca Bridgman, H.E. Bede Corry, Josef Strauss, Lydia Joseph, Rt Hon Grant Robertson, Dr Lucas Clover Alcolea.

While in Washington DC, the New Zealand Embassy collaborated with AUOA to host a reception at the Embassy, providing an opportunity to recognize the efforts of the team. More than 20 alumni and friends attended, including Otago alumnus Minister of Finance the Rt Hon Grant Robertson, who was in the city attending meetings at the time.

Embassy staff shared some stories of the Embassy and its taonga, and New Zealand Ambassador, His Excellency Bede Corry and the Minister spoke warmly of the reputation of Otago and its student experience.
“The US-based Otago Alumni Association (AUOA) was delighted to host the gathering of alumni and friends and recognize the successful efforts of the Otago Law School team representing New Zealand,” says AUOA Secretary Jacinta Calverley.

Jacinta, and fellow AUOA Board member Cathy Shyer, noted AUOA's commitment to hosting in-person events again, and assured attendees of the Board's enthusiasm for bringing together alumni and friends across the United States and keeping Otago University's name and spirit alive and strong.

“We were so lucky to meet them [the alumni] in person at the Embassy in Washington and have the opportunity to thank them personally for their support,” says Lydia.

Kōrero by Margie Clark, Communications Adviser, Development and Alumni Relations Office

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