Law students participate in prestigious Jessup competition
IN a world where globalization moves at a rapid pace, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary competence is fast becoming a necessity. The ability to compete on international grounds is substantial leverage if one desires success in this interconnected global world.
A group of aspiring lawyers from the Far Eastern University (FEU) has achieved this feat as one of the two Philippine representatives to the longstanding and prestigious Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition, also known as the Jessup. FEU ranked among 116 schools, whittled down from the over 600 schools around 90 countries, that reached the international round of the largest and most prestigious moot competition in the world.
Elywill Paja, Karlo Cleto, and Marco Sana, students of the JD-MBA program of the FEU-DLSU Consortium, won the championship round of the nationals that allowed them to fly to Washington, DC as the Philippine representative to the Jessup. This is the first time that FEU represented the Philippines in the International Round.
“It was a great privilege to present my oral arguments to some of the Philippines’ leading legal experts and jurists, including former Philippine Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano, Philippine Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, World Trade Organization Ambassador Manuel AJ Teehankee and Dean Raul Pangalangan,” said Paja. “During the international rounds, I met top law students and learned from legal experts, jurists, and arbitrators from all over the world. This experience has re-affirmed that I am in the right place and on the right track.”
Paja, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian American Studies from the University of California, Davis, was also ranked No. 2 among the Top 100 Best Oralists with four matches in the White & Case Jessup International Rounds, and No. 15 out of all the 600 oralists who competed in the Jessup.
The Jessup International Moot Court Competition is an advocacy competition, organized by the International Law Students Association, that challenge students through written and oral pleadings to address timely issues of public international law of a hypothetical legal dispute between nations. After three local rounds, country representatives advance to the international round to simulate a proceeding before the International Court of Justice, the primary judicial organ of the United Nations.
While other countries have the privilege to field anywhere from four to 12 teams at the Jessup International Round, the Philippines is only afforded two competing slots, the other filled by the University of San Carlos from Cebu.
“We obviously don’t have the resources of leading universities from other countries, but the teachers and students here are as capable as anywhere else,” said Cleto, who took his undergraduate program in UP Diliman. “The competition allowed us to see how we measure up, and it turns out that we measure up quite well.”
While various criticisms have been made on the effectiveness and flexibility of international law in the local context, it continues to be an important tool in the world legal order of an international society. This clearly posed a challenge to Philippine law students where international law is not a mandatory in law schools.
“The legal system in the Philippines is a hybrid of common and civil law, unlike many other countries that are either common law or civil law. With Philippine legal education being very bar-oriented, the focus is more on knowing and applying the law in order to prepare for the bar examination,” observed Paja. “This was an advantage in Jessup because there are a lot of materials to cover and nuances to identify in a short amount of time. The disadvantage is that we had to approach the legal issues as having no right or wrong answer necessarily, which is not how we are usually taught.”
Despite the stark difference in legal education in different countries, FEU’s JD program has adequately prepared its students to face some of the best law schools around the world.
“We have a diverse set of professors in the JD program,” said Paja. “Having classes with professors who were trained in different universities and styles means learning a variety of techniques and perspectives that leads to a more in-depth understanding of the law.”
“It’s all part of providing an environment where law students can grow as individuals and come into their own as future lawyers,” added Cleto.
The University of Sydney may have bagged the championship title of the 2015 Jessup International Round, but this experience has fueled a renewed passion for FEU and its students to make an impact in the field of international law.
“FEU has a long history of producing quality lawyers and jurists, and this experience affirms that FEU has what it takes to develop quality students and future lawyers,” Paja concluded.