Law team mediate fashion flaws to score second place

The University of Auckland clinched second place at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Commercial Mediation Competition.

Team members Andrew Brunt, Rose Allison, Henry Tan and Maddison Lewis
Team members Andrew Brunt, Rose Allison, Henry Tan and Maddison Lewis

Defective handbags were a hot topic at this year’s Asia-Pacific Commercial Mediation Competition, at which a Faculty of Law team placed second.

Facing diverse challenges, from construction contract nuances to haute couture handbag specifics, the team's journey to the final was marked by intensive training and camaraderie.

The competition pits pairs of law students against one another and requires them to mediate commercial disputes in 85 minutes. The problems range from highly commercial – such as a dispute around a variation to the scope of a construction contract, to more creative, such as the appropriate type of glazing to be used for a haute couture handbag.

Of the 32 teams in the competition from Brazil, Australia, India and Singapore, the University of Auckland team, coached by Britney Clasper and Jacob Siermans, placed second. Team members Andrew Brunt, Rose Allison, Henry Tan and Maddison Lewis came close to taking out gold but narrowly missed out to India’s OP Jindal University in the final.

The final problem saw the team act as a fashion company that produced various styles of handbags.

One year, the bags had defects and financial losses were incurred due to the company’s supplier providing an inferior material. The goal of the mediation was to receive compensation from the supplier for the defects, acquire the formula for the supplied material and potentially end the business relationship.

The UoA team trained two times per week in the lead-up to the competition and during their training, they frequently had guests provide feedback and help them hone their skills, including former competitors, coaches, and professional mediators.

“Overall, our coaches put together a comprehensive training programme that ensured we gained new skills and grew confident with the mediation process,” says Andrew.

“The thing about the process that I enjoyed the most was the team atmosphere. All members of the team, as well as the coaches, felt like friends beyond the competition. It made the training and preparation enjoyable, ensuring each session was full of laughs.”

For Maddison, learning more about mediation helped him consider how parties can best resolve disputes out of court.

“I would love to be involved in some form of litigation work in future - grappling with cases, speaking to clients, and being an advocate are things that excite me. As a result, this chance to learn more about mediation has opened up new pathways for envisioning how parties can resolve their disputes before entering a courtroom.”

Lean more about the annual competition.

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Sophie Boladeras | Media adviser
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