WM Students Win Virtual Moot Court Competition

On Friday, Sept. 7, for the second year in a row, William & Mary law students competed against Australian counterparts in the International Virtual Moot Court competition. This year, four W&M law students, Sarah Fulton '08, Laura Hopkins '08, Dan Kruger '08, and Amy Markopoulos '08 won the competition, beating out students from five Australian law schools.

The four-person William & Mary team competed in teams of two. Both teams, Fulton teamed with Kruger and Hopkins teamed with Markopoulas, won their preliminary rounds. Kruger and Markopoulos argued for William & Mary in the finals, defeating students from Bond University in Robina, Australia.

William & Mary's participation in the competition was supported by the Center for Legal and Court Technology in the McGlothin Courtroom. In the courtroom, the competitors were able to videoconference with their opposing counsel and the tournament judges. No two parties were in the same place; tournament judges and competing teams were all separate from one another, linked only by teleconference. The set-up made the tournament unique, allowing students to compete internationally without ever leaving their law schools.

The competition spanned not only distance but time zones. William & Mary competed at night, while its opposing counsel in Australia was arguing in their morning. Fulton said the experience of arguing by videoconference was a bit surreal.

"It was very disconcerting to be watching myself, one to two seconds delayed, while paying attention to the judges and viewing the other side," she said. "And, all on one screen."

This year's problem dealt with a rowdy user of Second Life, a virtual world where users can meet and buy and sell items for real-world money. The user's character, dressed as a pirate, disrupted a company meeting being held on the game, and video of the incident was then posted to the web. Claiming copyright invasion, the president of the company holding the meeting sought to have the video taken down from the defendant's server.

The Law School helped judge the competition as well. Law Professors Trotter Hardy and Laura Heymann, and Adjunct Professor Rebecca Hulse sat as a panel of judges Wednesday night, judging two Australian teams via teleconference.

Participants said that the experience was an illustration of how technology can bridge distance, and how legal issues are no longer confined by national borders.

"I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of this experience," Fulton said. "Our world is getting smaller by the minute, and legal issues are continually crossing country borders. This will surely be a good skill to have in the future."

"The International Virtual Moot Court competitions are yet a further example of how small our world has become and how important it is for our law students to be ready to work with colleagues abroad," Professor Fred Lederer, director of the Center for Legal and Court Technology, said. "I am proud that William & Mary has yet again been a legal education pioneer."