• Moot Court Team Rallies for International Competition
Rising to the Challenge: Moot Court team rallies for international competition
Senior Olivia Llanes could have quit and no one would have blamed her.
After all, the political science and Spanish double-major was attempting the near-impossible: recruit and prepare a four-person team for an international moot court competition. On an international business law case. Against law students. In a foreign country. And at a cost of $12,000.
Still, Llanes and her teammates did not back down and had a successful trip to Vienna, Austria, this past spring.
“It was a complete challenge,” she said. “To know you are capable, with so many things going on, to do what you want… it was rewarding to go, to compete, to have that experience. We spent a year together as a family and proved we can overcome anything.”
The first challenge came in May 2011, when Llanes approached then-professor Dr. Charles Knerr about competing at the Vienna event. Most of the UT Arlington moot court club members were either studying abroad or had conflicts, so the senior began asking around to recruit participants. A few months later, Knerr excused himself from the project due to health reasons and Llanes and her teammates scrambled to find another faculty adviser.
“I initially thought ‘this is not realistic,’” said Dr. Joseph Ignagni, the Professor of Political Science who stepped in for Knerr. “I wasn’t sure they could pull it off. They said ‘please give us a chance.’ I had so much respect for them… I decided to step in the breach, to fill the gap, to either succeed or fail.”
Ignagni said he was first impressed with the students’ drive and work effort. The foursome met three times a week for several hours to review case studies and prepare a 40-page memorandum. Even when the group hit a low point – mourning the death of Knerr in January – they soldiered on, working on their presentations, preparing their case responses and making fundraising appeals.
Llanes said their determination inspired support from alumni, faculty and fellow students.
“As time passed, people realized we were more dedicated,” she said. “Those naysayers came back and offered help.”
In late March, Llanes, and teammates Jesse Calderon, Neal Parekh and Verica Todorovic represented UT Arlington as the sole undergraduate team at the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitrational Moot contest in Vienna, Austria. The students went head-to-head with law students from Switzerland, Brazil, Czech Republic and Romania. Llanes said the group received positive feedback on their arguments and impressed the arbiters. “Most people didn’t know we were undergrads, so the critiques were valid,” she said.
Llanes and her teammates said they are thankful for the experience and the perspective they gained. Ignagni, who accompanied the group to Austria, said few students have impressed him in 20 years of teaching as much as this team did.
“No matter what they do from now on… nothing will be as unnerving as this potentially was,” Ignagni said. “They can overcome almost anything. Everything was stacked against them. And they handled it with such poise and determination.”
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