Get prepared: Five tips to thrive in the ICC Commercial Mediation Competition 2016

  • 14 January 2016

There are only a few weeks left before the 11th edition of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Commercial Mediation Competition and the stakes are high.

We sat down with dedicated experts and experienced participants to provide competing teams with an arsenal of tools to help put their best foot forward. Here are our five tips to train for what some have described as a life- changing event.

Tip #1: Be prepared

This may be obvious, but it is an essential point that cannot be overlooked. Understanding what is required and what the boundaries are guarantees that there are no surprises. “Start by making sure you have read and fully understand the rules, the annexes, as well as all the general and confidential information of the problems. We have spent a lot of time on these rules and every year they get improved more and more to ensure that everything is precise and consistent,” said Ronald Austin , Chair of the Working Group on Competition Rules.

It is also worth acknowledging the mental and physical demands of spending a week in a foreign city. Consider the time zone, rhythm of life, language, transportation, locations of events, and even food. Read about how to get around in Paris beforehand, specifically, how to get to and from where you are staying in relation to the Competition site. This may seem minor, but being on time, knowing where you need to be and how to get there in advance will encourage a positive start.

Tip #2: Practice, practice, practice
“I think the top thing we did as a team with our coach was to go over each problem multiple times and really refine our view as much as possible,” said Brandon Schrecengost, a member of the winning team of the 2015 ICC Mediation Competition. Practice the sample problems over and over to master your skills and build confidence. Adding a realistic, competition-like condition to test your performance is also valuable. You are less likely to be caught off guard in the real rounds if you already have an idea of what to expect.

Practice your English and use your words wisely. “This will be especially important for those who are non-native English speakers. Practicing pronunciation and thinking about the best words to utilize is a necessity,” said Diego Faleck , coach of the Sao Paulo Law School of Fundacao Getulio Vargas team and a member of the Working Group on Competition Rules. Taking the time to be comfortable with the vocabulary will make all the difference when you sit down at the table

Tip #3: Understand the “why”
“A lot of work in mediation is counter-intuitive for lawyers and law students. Instead of thinking about what you are going to do and the tactics needed to accomplish that plan, think about why you are at the table and why you are doing what you are doing,” said Rosemary Howell , coach of the University of New South Wales in Australia and member of the Working Group on the Competition Rules. There needs to be a strategic reason behind your actions. Knowing and understanding that reason will be key to your success. “The second thing to keep in mind is interests. Focus on why the parties want what they want instead of their position (which only tells you what they want and robs you of the opportunity to satisfy their interests in a different and possibly more attractive way). Learning to move from positions to interests differentiates master mediators and negotiators,” added Ms. Howell.

Tip #4: Know your plan, but be able to adapt
Have a strategy, but know there will be moments when you will need to deviate and think on your feet. “It is the job of the case drafters to throw surprises at you, but students need to be sure they can adapt,” said Mr Faleck. Use your problem-solving skills and be flexible. If you feel lost, consider paraphrasing or asking an open question. It may be more effective than countering with an argument. Choose the best framing for a question and really think about where the other side is going.

Tip #5: Maintain an open mind
“This not only applies to mediation but also being in a new place and interacting with different people from around the world,” said Mr Austin. Try not to have preconceived ideas about someone or something. Be open to the person or problem in front of you. Ideas and judgments may change if you approach them with a constructive attitude or a different angle.

You now have your first five rules to keep you in the race, but stay tuned! Next Thursday we will have five more practical tips to help teams be at their best throughout the Competition week.