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7th Cologne Summer Academy on International Commercial Arbitration



It"s said that 7 is a lucky number, and when it came to the 7th Cologne Summer Academy on International Commercial Arbitration, I could not have felt luckier, nor more privileged to have attended. The emphasis on interactive learning, and the impressive teaching faculty was what first attracted me to the Academy, but what I experienced when I arrived exceeded my expectations!


arbitration2009-2.gifThe Academy is based on Prof. Berger"s interactive case study, and guides the participants through each element of the arbitration process: from drafting arbitration clauses, to setting them aside; delivering opening and closing statements, to cross-examining witnesses. The teaching faculty consists of leading academics and practitioners; all experts in the field of international commercial arbitration. The Academy is impeccably organized from beginning to end, largely due to the efforts of Madeleine Bernhardt and the rest of the Center for Transnational Law (CENTRAL) team, who are always on hand to help and answer any questions the participants may have. All materials are provided, and participants are even presented with Prof. Berger"s book on Private Dispute Resolution in International Business at the end of the academy.


The Academy began with an informal welcome reception at the German Institution of Arbitration (DIS). This was our first chance to meet our fellow participants in the Academies, who had travelled from all over the world to attend. The copious amounts of the famous Keolsch and traditional Cologne food ensured that everyone relaxed, and enjoyed getting to know one another. The main event of the opening evening was most definitely the introduction of the charismatic director of the Academy, Prof. Dr. Klaus Peter Berger. Although he maintains that nobody laughs at his jokes, he certainly put us all at ease and left us in excited anticipation for the programme ahead.


Prof. Berger, Stefan Hoffmann and Peter Kraft of the DIS were the leaders of the first workshop, and emphasised the importance of drafting an effective arbitration clause. Peter Kraft gave us an insightful explanation of the role of the arbitral institution, and in particular, the way in which the DIS handles arbitrations; both administratively and practically. The participants were divided into claimants and respondents to discuss their respective positions, which certainly added a competitive dimension to the course. We were given an exercise in which we had to identify mistakes and potential pitfalls in different arbitration clauses. Under the guidance of the workshop leaders, we learned the fundamental importance of drafting a good arbitration clause, and the ways in which this affects the governing law of the contract.


arbitration2009-3.gifDr. Boris Kasolowsky, Council for Dispute Resolution at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Frankfurt lead Tuesday"s workshop, which focused on oral pleading and the art of persuasion. Claimants and respondents split up and discussed their respective opening and closing statements with the workshop leaders. The teaching centred on teamwork and role play, giving participants the chance to plead in front of a tribunal and put in to practice everything they had learned. Prof. Berger, Stefan Hoffmann and Dr. Kasolowsky offered valuable feedback at every stage of the workshop, and gave individual analysis of the performances of the participants who plead.


Wednesday"s workshop was taken by Prof. Martin Hunter of Nottingham Law School. We learned about the IBA Rules on taking evidence, and the importance of asking open questions of your own witnesses, and closed questions when cross-examining. Prof. Berger and Stefan Hoffmann acted as witnesses, causing as much trouble for questioning counsel as they could! While Prof. Berger"s performance was particularly hilarious, it did highlight the importance of council delicately but deliberately guiding witness testimony in the right direction.


Dr. Stefan Kröll, the National Correspondent for UNCITRAL to Germany for Arbitration, took the fourth and last workshop, explaining the law regarding procedural orders, and awards on jurisdiction, partial awards, final awards and awards on costs. The final phase of the Academy was to have a joint session with the Business Negotiation and Mediation Academy, comparing the different approaches each Academy took to the case. This allowed us a fuller and more rounded understanding of the field of dispute resolution, by understanding when arbitration is appropriate, and when other methods of dispute resolution may work better.


arbitration2009-4.gifThroughout the course, the diversity of legal jurisdictions represented by the participants led to a more profound level of comparative analysis. Not only did we examine the arbitration process through traditional civil and common law techniques, but also from the perspectives of Asian, Indian, and African lawyers. The chance to question such highly esteemed experts in international commercial arbitration was a unique and invaluable opportunity. The pragmatic tricks of the trade and strategies they shared with us will undoubtedly be useful throughout our careers.


The social programme that accompanied the academy was excellent, and very enjoyable. On Monday we were taken on a guided tour of Cologne, which culminated in a koelsch tasting session in a traditional German beer house, compliments of CENTRAL. Tuesday saw us cruising down the Rhine, enjoying a cold drink and a well stocked buffet. The relaxed and friendly atmosphere created a perfect environment in which to get to know our fellow participants and workshop leaders.


Having previously competed in the Vis Moot, I could not recommend this academy enough to those who plan to participate. However, the calibre of teaching and the breadth of topics covered make this course highly appropriate and enjoyable for both students and practitioners alike. My week in Cologne has been both educationally and socially enriching and enjoyable. I have learnt in a week, what other institutions would take a term to teach, and all under the expert guidance of the remarkably talented teaching faculty. I do not hesitate in recommending it to anyone with an interest in international commercial arbitration.


Rona Carron Macrae