Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Top 3 Most Appreciated Arbitrator (FDI Moot 2020)

Last month, I had the rare privilege to be an arbitrator in the Foreign Direct Investment International Arbitration Moot held virtually on 5-9 November 2020 (FDI Moot 2020). I've been a moot judge on many ocassions before, but this was my first time for FDI Moot 2020. This year, the teams even had the chance to rate arbitrators after the hearings.

After the competition, I was ranked in the Top 3 Most Appreciated Arbitrator.

What a pleasant surprise! I ended up at the #2 spot (9.0) between James Hosking (9.66) and Madina Lokova (8.66). Special thanks to the organising committee (especially Christian Campbell and Manuela Wedam) for welcoming me into the FDI family.

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Truth be told, I think I got lucky.

Teams may rate the arbitrators by filling up a survey form. Not all teams do, I'm sure. The competition can be rather intense, and most teams would be busy thinking and planning ahead for their next rounds. So not all arbitrators may have gotten a rating at all. Only arbitrators evaluated at least by 3 teams are eligible. So there's a chance some arbitrators may have scored higher than me, but missed out because they didn't receive enough ratings.

Incidentally, I also had the pleasure to sit in a panel with James and Madina - so maybe the teams were especially generous to us? Oddly, I remembered the hearing as being hotter than usual - each of us were really grilling the mooters. But I also remembered during the post-hearing feedback, we dispensed some big-picture, forward-thinking, Yoda-like advice - so maybe the mooters appreciated that?

But honestly, I felt my co-arbitrators in my other rounds were just as amazing. Many of them were seasoned FDI regulars. I truly learned a lot from them. They helped me grow as an arbitrator, round after round. My award is a culmination of their efforts guiding me along. I would not have won the award without them. Yes, I truly mean that.

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But above all, I truly enjoyed the entire experience to be an arbitrator, for a change.

In some ways, being a moot judge is more taxing than a participant or coach. A judge has to stay focused at all times. There's no moment where you can 'zone out' (such as Counsel 1 relaxing slightly when the hearing moves to Counsel 2). The FDI Moot is not a walk in the park, either. Essentially, FDI combines both public international law and international commercial arbitration - two already wide and complex areas of law on their own.

I was quite nervous at the start, to be frank. I joined the Regional Rounds to gain some experience and 'warm up'. Yes, I needed it! My co-arbitrators were plucking out investment cases on top of their heads. I had a lot of catching up to do.

By the time all my hearings ended, I felt incredibly exhausted - as if I really flew to Seoul and back again. I fell slightly ill days after (hence, causing a backlog of work and delay of this appreciation post). Still, no regrets. It was an enriching experience - and perhaps even life-changing?

It wasn't just about the moot. I actually enjoyed learning about investment law - so much so I'm toying with the idea of writing some articles (or be involved a real case someday - yes, even an old hat like myself can dream!)

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The saddest part was the moot being fully virtual due to COVID-19. So I never got to meet the mooters, arbitrators, or even organisers in person!

Still, I had a good time bonding with many people all around the world, despite of the physical and time constraints (the hearing room has a timer like a ticking bomb!) Hopefully, when the pandemic is over, we'll get to reconnect for real.

Next year, the FDI Moot will be held in Seoul. I've blocked the dates on my calendar. Annyeong haseyo! See you all in 2021!

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