William & Mary Students Compete in International "Virtual" Moot Court Competition

Four William & Mary Law School moot court members made history when they competed with law school teams on the other side of the world in the first International Virtual Moot Court Competition which concluded earlier this month.

William & Mary joined four Australian law schools - University of Melbourne, Murdoch University, Queensland University of Technology, and the University of Canberra – for the competition that took place through videoconferencing. The case in the competition involved a dispute over an Internet domain name, and the competition was a simulated version of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Tribunal.

The moot court members representing William & Mary were Brandon Jordan JD ’07, and Svetlana Khvalina JD ’07, who served as co-counsels for the complainant, and Elizabeth McElroy JD ’07, and Amy Markopoulos JD ’08, who were co-counsels for the respondent.

Virtual moot court participant Brandon Jordan said, “The videoconferencing technology bridged the distance quite easily, so being part of the virtual moot court competition was much like any other competition where two sides face off in a courtroom. In this instance, the interaction with legal minds half-way around the globe made the experience unique and exciting.”

Chancellor Professor of Law and Director for the Center for Legal and Court Technology Fred Lederer, who coordinated the event, said this competition allowed William & Mary to be part of international legal history. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time in history [that a virtual moot competition has taken place],” he said. “Nothing like this has ever been done before.”

In addition to allowing William & Mary to be on the cutting edge of legal technology, Lederer said the competition “has shown the potential for modern technology to benefit the things lawyers do on a daily basis.”

“It definitely makes it seem possible that in the future, actual trials can take place with parties, even judges, in different locations,” said virtual moot court member Amy Markopoulos, co-counsel for the respondent.

While some aspects of the moot competition were familiar, Markopoulos said the international competitors allowed her to “see the nuances of mooting in Australia. For example, they state the entire case citation, and structure their arguments different than [what] we are used to in the US,” she said. “It was also an exciting experience because we argued on a Sunday night, which was Monday morning in Australia, so it was truly a ‘worldly’ experience.”

During the first three days of competition, William & Mary’s respondent co-counsels tied with their competitors on Sept. 24 and the complainant co-counsels won on Sept. 26, qualifying William & Mary to compete against Melbourne in the final round Oct. 8.

William & Mary’s moot court team placed second in the final round of competition. “I am very proud of what our team did,” Lederer said, calling the virtual competition “a great success.”

3L Elizabeth McElroy, co-counsel for the respondent, said she was very pleased with William & Mary’s performance. “I was honored to be a part of the competition,” she said. “Participating in the world’s first virtual moot court competition was an exciting experience.”

McElroy said the technical aspects of the virtual competition were “unique and interesting; there was a time delay with the monitors, so you could not watch you picture while speaking for fear of being thrown off of your pace,” she said.

“Professor Lederer has been working on this competition for over a year, so it was thrilling to see his ideas and goals come to fruition,” said McElroy.

“We are thrilled and as far as we can tell, [the competition] was a brilliant success,” Lederer said, noting that he anticipates another virtual moot competition with Australian law schools next year. “We’ll be curious to see whether other American law schools choose to get involved with this kind of endeavor,” he said. “We’ve removed the international boundaries with this kind of competition.”