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The University of Houston Law Center has won the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)’s 10th International Commercial Mediation Competition, taking the title after a thrilling final against the University of Sao Paolo.

University of Houston Law Center wins ICC Mediation Competition 2015

University of Houston Law Center wins ICC Mediation Competition 2015

Featuring some 150 mock mediation sessions based on real commercial disputes, the 2015 Competition tested the problem-solving skills of 67 teams from 34 countries, making it the biggest and most diverse yet.

University of Houston Law Center was represented by students Brandon Schrecengost and Rose Badruddin, who win internships at the ICC International Centre for ADR, and the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, as part of the Competition prize.

Houston won the first ICC Mediation Competition in 2006, but has taken 10 years to get a team back into the competition finals.

“I’m ecstatic!” said Mr Schrecengost. “To get this far and eventually win is beyond anything we could have hoped for.”

Ms Badruddin added: “Lawyers are usually taught to be independent but I think one of the biggest lessons of this Competition for me is: trust yourself, but also trust your partner.”

The team was selected for their “good social dynamics” during their university’s series of mediation, negotiation, and arbitration competitions, according to coach Kevin Hedges, a practicing attorney who teaches at the University of Houston and has been a moderator, mediator and arbitrator. He added: “The Competition has gotten much more competitive every year. It’s invaluable for the students to meet their peers from around the world and interact with them both socially and professionally.”

Future lawyers and business leaders

Throughout the competition, professional mediators drew on their own experiences of resolving business disputes to act as mediators and judges, while students played the roles of client and legal counsel. The final session involved a complex dispute over the low yields of a newly acquired vineyard on a South Pacific Island.

The Competition has gotten much more competitive every year. It’s invaluable for the students to meet their peers from around the world and interact with them both socially and professionally.

“Helping commercial parties resolve disputes smoothly is fundamental to ICC’s work as the world business organization,” said ICC Secretary General John Danilovich. “ICC is proud of Mediation Week’s huge contribution to mediation capacity-building over the past 10 years, boosting the dispute resolution skills of future lawyers and business leaders worldwide.”

Speaking at the Competition finale, Pablo Bernad, Partner, Head of KPMG Risk Consulting in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Southwest Asia, said headline sponsor KPMG was proud to contribute to this “exciting and highly valuable” global event.

“Mediation is extremely relevant in today’s business and mediation skills will continue to be in high demand,” said Mr Bernad. “The healthy competitive spirit, the learnings, the interaction with universities, professionals and sponsors, and the great combination of hard work, tension and… lots of fun, make the ICC Mediation Competition a great experience for everybody involved.”

Strong year

Brazilian universities did particularly well in this year’s competition, with three of its four participating teams getting through to the final rounds and one winning second place.

Runners-up University of Sao Paolo selected their team of business and law students for their ability to adapt, communicate, and get on well together. Bruno Byrro, a student who competed last year, and is now coach alongside Gabriel Alves, said: “It’s been amazing: they did a really good job, it was the best performance our university has ever had.”

Julia Rioto Berbel, who played the role of client in the final, said: “I’m really proud of our team: we never expected to get this far. I’ve started to see the effectiveness of everything we’ve been taught about conversation and understanding other people’s perspectives. I think that’s very, very useful for my future.”

Third prize went to the University of Warsaw. Team member Paul Eric Studt said the competition had taught him that listening to others has its benefits: “It’s sometimes easier to achieve your own interests if you take other people’s interests into consideration. The Competition is a great platform to connect to people, exchange ideas and become acquainted with other cultural ways of interacting.”

Jim Lawrence, now a qualified mediator, and a teacher at the Law Center, was on Houston’s winning team back in 2006. The Competition, and particularly its connections between international law and mediation, went on to influence his later career. “Winning the Competition was life-changing,” said Mr Lawrence.

“I think it’s one of the most amazing, incredible experiences that a law student could have. Not only do you get the opportunity to network with mediation professionals who give you input on how to do it better, but you also get to meet students from all around the world and that just doesn’t happen very often.”

Relive highlights of the ICC Mediation Competition on Twitter via #ICCMW @ICCMediation.

For more information on ICC mediation services, visit the ICC International Centre for ADR.

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