In conversation with Team-NALSAR: Semi-finalists in the ICC Asia Pacific CMC 2020 (Tips on doing international ADR competitions)

Prerana KH is a 4th year student who was runner-up in the 2nd NUJS Khaitan Client Consultation Competition (2020); won Best Client-Counsel Pair at Symbiosis ADR Tournament (2019); qualified for the National Rounds of Brown Mosten International Client Consultation; was ADR representative and interim convenor of NALSAR (2018-2019).

Harshvardhan Tripathi is also a 4th year student who was runner-up in 2nd NUJS Khaitan Client Consultation Competition (2020); won Best Client-Counsel Pair at Symbiosis ADR Tournament (2019); qualified for the national rounds of Brown Mosten International Client Consultation.

Pooja Bharadwaj is a 3rd year student who secured a gold medal as a Mediation Advocate and won a team gold medal in the mediation category at the International Mediation Competition Singapore 2019; was ranked in the top 3 client-attorney pairs at the GLC National ADR Triathlon 2020; participated in the 2nd Advocate Maximus; participated in the 2nd NLIU-Link Legal National Client Counselling Competition 2019; attended the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (Singapore Mediation Convention) (August 2019).

Shravani Shendye is a 3rd year student who was gold medalist at the 1st NUJS-IMW Mediation Essay Writing Competition (2019); gold medalist at the 1st “International Mediation Singapore” Competition organised by Singapore International Mediation Institute and attended the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (Singapore Convention) signing ceremony and conference as Indian delegate (2019). She has also published multiple articles in this field.

They have been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Mansi Meena who is currently pursuing law from NALSAR.

For link of Video Interview, Click HERE

  1. Why did you choose to be a 4-member team over a 2/3-member team? What was the division of work between the teams?

This 4-member team is actually composed of two 2-member teams that has worked very closely with each other in the past. The reason we chose 4 members is because we believed that we could build on the already existing experience, skill and strategy that each of these 2-member teams had. By doing this we had two people in the team who were very good at the counsel’s role alongside two others who were very good at being the client.

Through the duration of our two-month preparation journey, we did try all sorts of roles and combinations however, in 3 out of the 4 actual rounds in the competition, we stuck to our original pairs. I personally think this gave us an advantage because instead of wasting time on trial and error, we were honing our already existent client-counsel dynamics.

  1. How long was your team preparation and how did you go about it?

Our team preparation lasted 2 months. The competition was scheduled for August end and we began our preparation in the first week of June itself. First, we reached out to the coaches and got on a call to discuss how we are going to plan our preparation according to everyone’s schedules. We had a few negotiation classes from A.J. Jawad Sir and around 15 mock sessions on different international competition problems, including previous ICC problems. We had these mock sessions in different permutations and combinations of the four of us in roles of client and counsel to try out what all suited us best. After these mock rounds, we used to get elaborate feedback from both Judges which sometimes lasted as long as 2-3 hours. We also recorded all of our mock sessions to revisit them post the feedback session. We also had mock sessions on the actual ICC Asia Pacific problems after we had finalised our respective roles and which team was participating in which preliminary round. Our end goal was what is best for the team and that is how we decide on how to team up for the actual competition. Pooja and I have always worked well together and so have Prerana and Harshvardhan. Thus, we formed our teams accordingly. We also discussed the problem threadbare, with the coaches as well as amongst ourselves and spent around 7-8 hours on each problem.

  1. How was it doing an international competition? And how is it different from a national competition?

It was pretty awesome; the experience was totally different as we got to compete against the teams from different parts of the world. The organisation was great, Judges were highly qualified and gave detailed feedback which is very useful for our future as well. In national competitions, usually advocates are also invited to judge the competition and this sometimes acts as a backdrop because of the subjective opinion it brings in, but in an international competition only qualified people in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) are invited to judge, they are always on the same page about their comments and judgment and this leaves very less room for confusion. In regard to the problems that we are given, they are well drafted, and the issues are or were neatly placed which is not always the case with national competitions. ADR is always seen as a subjective field but in international competitions the subjectivity is reduced to a greater extent and this actually leaves less room for surprise when the results are out. Hence, international competitions are any day better than national competitions mainly because of the kind of practice they demand and the exposure they provide.

  1. How did you go about preparing the strategy paper?

It is important to first know what purpose the strategy paper serves. Firstly, it creates the impression in the mind of the Judge as to how the team is and thus, you cannot slack on this aspect. So, read the problem multiple times from as many perspectives possible and try to brainstorm the interpretation of words. Secondly, move to headings. Now, this is dependent on the competitions but some of them are the common ones including, strengths, weaknesses, best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA), worst alternative to a negotiated agreement (WATNA). After you have sorted these headings out, then you read the problem from the perspective of culling out relevant information. This is an essential part to form an idea as to how you will execute the strategy plan. Now, when you write the strategy paper and when you execute it are different ball games altogether. Nonetheless, strategy papers act as the base. Another practical step is to be precise and use as many required words as possible. Try to word it broadly and not specifically so that you are including most of the things. Other pointers would be using concise language to express ideas; using bullet points instead of large paragraphs; making sure to check for any spelling, grammatical or typographical mistakes.

  1. How was ODR for the first time? What is the difference between online and offline competition? Which one do you think is better?

Doing online dispute resolution (ODR) for the first time was a huge challenge for all of us mainly because our skills usually stemmed and grew from offline competitions where we sat beside each other, could look into each other’s notes, maintain eye contact, etc. “Modron” [online space where Asia-Pacific Commercial Mediation Competition (APCMC) was conducted] did not have an advanced chat option where we could chat with our teammate alone, along with maintaining eye contact and showing the other party that we were interested also proved to be difficult. In addition to this, there were many technical difficulties that we faced in regard to the audio and video clarity. We also were not able to socialise with the Judges or the other teams as everything was online and we had our exam on the same day. The feeling was definitely different and not as good as doing the competition offline as all four of us were sitting in different parts of the country while taking part in the competition. In offline competitions, such problems do not occur and hence, offline competitions are better than virtual competitions. But, considering all that is happening in the world right now, I am glad we got the opportunity to take part and achieve something with the help of my teammates and coaches.

  1. How were the organisation team/mediators/judges of APCMC?

The organising team was great. They helped us familiarise ourselves with the “Modron” platform by allowing us to have mock sessions on the same. They were cooperative throughout our preparation. There was no delay in sessions and the competition was a roaring success because of the hard work of the organising team. The competition format allowed professional mediators to mediate our rounds. These mediators also gave us feedback post the sessions. This gave us great insight into the whole process of mediation, and it was a great experience to be mediated by the best professionals in the industry. The Judges also gave elaborate feedbacks after the rounds which immensely helped us improve upon our mediation advocacy skills.

  1. Did you have coaches? Is it mandatory to have coaches to take part in an international competition?

Yes, we had two coaches, Mr A.J. Jawad and Mr Sandeep Bhalothia. I am sure my teammates would agree with me on this, I believe we could not have reached the semi-finals of this competition without their consistent help, advice and most importantly their unwavering support.

To answer your second question, no, it is not mandatory to have coaches in order to take part in an international competition. Shravani and I (Pooja) took part in the first edition of IMSG without any coaches. However, after having experienced both, I would advise students to definitely get at least one coach on board, if not two, if they do plan on taking part in any international competition. The knowledge and expertise that coaches bring along with them is almost impossible to replicate especially when the entire team is composed of only college students. The coaches not only gave us a glance into the theory aspect of mediation, but also analysed our strengths and weaknesses in a manner that we never could. Their unwavering support and much needed criticism is what helped us become better mediation advocates than we ever were before.

  1. Any tips for the ones who might take part in this competition in the future?

The tips would largely depend on whether they have an online semester or an offline semester. Regardless, I would give some general tips. Firstly, have a clear conception of what negotiation entails. That can be done by reading books, online resources like Harvard resources, blogs on negotiation, conflict resolution and communication theory. Try to absorb knowledge from online resources. Secondly, watch rounds and try to incorporate the skills. So, watch and practise skills observed from multiple ICC mediation competition rounds on YouTube. Our coach, Mr A.J. Jawad told us that it is a conscious thing to incorporate elements in your style of delivering. Sometimes we do things in the flow, but in this field, we need to incorporate things and execute them deliberately. Thirdly, understand that negotiation is a game of language. So, how you speak and the words that you choose to express yourself. So, improve upon the diction and vocabulary. Learn to rephrase sentences in neutral words. And mostly, practise mocks. Also, ensure the availability of a quality audio, video and internet connection.

  1. How was your overall individual experience?

Shravani: It was a great learning experience and I saw a difference in my negotiation skills from before and after the coaching and the competition. It was a period of growth and learning that I will always cherish.

Pooja: I thoroughly enjoyed the entire journey including the two months that we spent preparing for the competition. We benefited both professionally by becoming better mediation advocates and also learnt essential skills that can be used in our day-to-day lives. As our coaches say, “life is but a negotiation”.

HVT: Great learning experience that equipped me with the skillset of the future i.e. ODR.

Prerana: The competition helped us to learn important skills that help us in not just professional lives but also our personal lives as well. It was a great opportunity to learn and grow.


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