ICAM team takes on lively topic of squid at international competition in Vienna

Published: February 14th, 2011

Category: News

Two months from today, Julianne Parker and more than a thousand other law students from six continents will meet in Vienna for an international competition they’ve been preparing for since October.

After six months of preparation, an eight-day trip to Austria’s capital and a 75-page problem report, it all comes down to this: squid.

That’s the topic of argument in this year’s International Commercial Arbitration Moot. Squid.

Or, more precisely, the international sale of squid.

And Parker (3L) isn’t the least bit intimidated by the thought of arguing before a three-member international tribunal for an hour about calamari.

But maybe that’s because Parker’s been here before.

Earning honorable mention in last year’s competition for her oral arguments and for the entire team’s claimant’s briefs, Parker said she’s excited to return to Vienna to serve as UF’s captain this year as the Gators tackle 10-tentacled legal issues against more than 250 other law schools from across the world.

“It’s an interesting thing to do a problem on,” Parker said. “It’s a bit more lively, no pun intended.”

Arguing about the international sale of water palms during 2010’s competition and missing out on advancing to the next level by only a handful of points out of 1,200, Parker and the rest of UF’s ICAM team hope squid will be their lucky charm.

“We really want to go back and prove to belong,” Parker said. “We want to prove we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

But, like any team, things don’t always begin picturesque.

Jeffrey Harrison, Stephen C. O’Connell Chair, and Professor of Law George Dawson, teach and coach the ICAM team. Harrison said students always start off a bit rusty before beginning their four-hour-a-week practice schedule during the entire spring semester.

But the rustiness gives way to something spectacular soon enough, Harrison said.

“Really, it’s like seeing them blossom,” he said. UF has been sending students to compete in Vienna since 1993, but Harrison said the evolution of the team has been remarkable in recent years. This will be Harrison’s sixth year as coach of UF’s ICAM team, and he doesn’t shy away from praising ICAM to others.

Calling the team “the single finest opportunity we offer students at the law school,” Harrison’s sentiments seem to be widely shared by all those involved.

Eduardo Palmer (JD 85), a major sponsor and coach of UF’s team, echoed Harrison’s feelings, calling ICAM “hands down” the best experience UF has to offer its law students.

Palmer, who specializes in international litigation at his law office in Miami, said the benefits students gain from competing in ICAM surpass simply learning about international arbitration.

Some get job offers on the spot, he said.

“Students get their first taste of this from the program, and they’re addicted,” Palmer said.

Parker is one of those students.

“The competition has literally changed what I want to do with my life,” Parker said.

Part of the life-changing atmosphere of ICAM, Palmer said, is the worldly experience that competitors gain.

And Palmer, who immigrated to America from Cuba shortly after the Communist takeover, said an interest in international affairs is essential in today’s world.

“The American viewpoint isn’t always right,” he said, “we need to be open to different viewpoints.”

While the main focus of the team’s travel to Europe is always on work, both Parker and Palmer emphasized the importance of play.

“They work hard, argue, but at night, they party,” Palmer said. “It’s a good balance between work and play.”

And in a place like Vienna, swept up with palaces and a 2,500-year history, Harrison said a balance between work and play is essential for students.

“You’re in a beautiful place. It’s kind of hard not be happy,” he said. “There’s a definite sort of happy excitement that permeates the whole thing.”

ICAM, which is conducted entirely in English, begins the general round with 250 teams in which each team competes against four others, Parker said. This year, UF will compete against Saarland University from Germany, the University of Silesia from Poland, the University of Fribourg from Switzerland and Palacky University from the Czech Republic.

From the general round, Parker said, the teams are cut down to the best 64 before it moves into a bracket-style of competition.

And while the competition to literally be the best in the world might seem cutthroat, Palmer said ICAM is just the opposite – the international camaraderie is one of his favorite things about the annual competition.

“There’s not that kind of mean-spiritedness you see in so many other areas,” Palmer said. “There’s much more that unites us than divides us when we look at the big picture.”

Along with Parker, this year’s team will bring to Vienna: Christa Diaz (3L), Jennifer Thomas (3L), Kimberly Stewart (2L), Caitlin Mitchell (2L) and Donna-Marie Hayle (2L).