Vasylyna Odnorih ’09
Zarichchya, Ukraine/Williamsburg, IA

Kyiv-Mohyla Team participating in the Philip C. Jessup Law Moot Court Competition.

«Philip C. Jessup Law Moot Court Competition is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from over 500 law schools in more than 80 countries.»[1] It is an unforgettable experience for law students from all over the world.

Participants of the competition appear before the International Сourt of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations, as agents representing interests of States in a fictional dispute.  The competition itself consists of the written pleadings and further oral rounds where teams had to argue both the applicant and the respondent position in the case. As a rule, Jessup problems concern disputed legal questions for which there is no clear answer in international law.

Because it was a challenge, we, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Team decided to try ourselves. Our aim was to get new skills, crucial for the legal career, and learn how to apply international law to resolve a dispute. Starting from September, when the fictional case was released, we, as well as other students around the globe, started working on the questions of the legality of the destruction of a cultural site; who may represent a State after a coup d’etat; and State responsibility for a regional operation. Long hours of researching and practicing, sleepless nights, disappointment and encouragement, and all the efforts resulted in becoming National Champions at the Ukrainian Rounds of the Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition held in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 10-12, 2012. As we had won the National rounds it was our honor and pleasure to represent Ukraine and the National University of «Kyiv-Mohyla Academy» at the International Rounds of the Competition in Washington, DC, March 25-31, 2012. It was unforgettable time in the blooming capital among outstanding law professionals and students. We competed against teams from the Netherlands, Jamaica, the Baltic Region University and Gambia. We were among the best 32 teams, out of 137 total present at the competition, to compete in the advanced rounds. Unfortunately, we had lost in the advanced rounds and had given the way to the team from Columbia Law School, USA, which went on to take second place in the final International Round. It was extraordinary to plead against these teams before the bench of highly qualified international lawyers.

Of course, behind the scene of competing during the International Rounds there was so much more of Jessup. Teamwork was the core tool for competing in the competition and without it this success could not have been possible. Two coaches – Sergiy Petukhov and Viktoria Stavchuk shared their own experiences as Jessup participants and guided us through the endless research of international law and drafting of memorials. We, Yehor Turcheniuk ’08, Vasylyna Odnorih ’09, and Maksym Popovych ’09, used our exchange experience and other team members, Mariana Antonovych and Andrii Gumenchuk, have applied their academic one for the benefit of the team. It was time of teaching and learning, trying and failing, trying again and being successful.  We all have learned how to believe in each other and in what we did.

It was important to realize not only the strongest sides of the case and of the team, but also the weakest in order to be able to argue or surrender at some point, but still represent the issues before the court to the best of our ability. We have all gained advocacy skills and improved our ability to persuade. Our public speaking, communication and time management skills were also significantly impacted in positive ways.

What Jessup is also about is the atmosphere of creating and promoting a great community. It was our goal to join the community of “Jessup-ers,” who are already successful in different fields of law or just starting their legal career, as we are. The week in Washington, D.C. made it possible to create connections with law students from more than a hundred universities worldwide. It was a platform for communication with outstanding law professors and legal practitioners, whose advice and feedback is significant for our professional development as lawyers.

Apart of the spirit of the competition there was a great time of cultural exchange. All the teams were more than encouraged and had lots of chances to share about their home countries. There was even a special event organized during the week of the International Rounds to introduce the cultural difference among the participants – the Go-National Ball. Every team represented their culture through national clothing and some souvenirs and treats from their countries. It was a great night celebrating the diversity of the world! Jessup is created to unite people, give them a possibility to communicate and finally understand how similar we all are notwithstanding the fact that we live in different countries and continents.

Regardless of any hard times during the preparation, it was all worth it in the end. We left Jessup 2012 with a desire to come back, to spend a whole year working on the Compromis to compete for a great week in Washington, DC.

It is important to say that this unforgettable experience could not have been created without many kinds of support, which we appreciate greatly. We are thankful to the US Embassy in Ukraine, outstanding law firms such as Baker&McKenzie, Asters, Chadbourne and Parke, Avellum Partners, Ernst and Young, Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners for taking the burden of financing our participation. We appreciate greatly also the personal financial support from Andriy V. Stelmashchuk and Oleksandr Trotsenko. Also, we are thankful to the American Councils for International Education for helping us in fundraising. It was amazing to feel how much the FLEX community cared about what we were doing. It proved that 10 months exchange is just the beginning of the lifetime experience with FLEX.

The Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition 2012 was a challenge for our Kyiv-Mohyla Academy team. But, also, it was a stunning experience of which we are proud to be a part.