The ICC Mediation Competition is the world’s most coveted moot centered on international commercial mediation. The 13th edition of the competition was held in Paris from 2nd – 7th February, 2018. The University of New South Wales, Sydney (“NSW”) emerged as the winner of the competition, securing a victory against Saint Joseph University of Beirut. We interview Jack Rathie, a member of the team representing NSW.
Jack Rathie is a fifth year Bachelor of Commerce and Law Student at NSW. He has competed in numerous mediation and negotiation competitions, recently winning the 2018 ICC Paris Mediation Competition. He is interested in how technology, communication, marketing and the law intersect.
How was your experience at Paris?
Incredible! ICC Paris is a competition that brings together some of the best universities from around the world and it was a wild ride. I had a wonderful time competing and eating mountains of French cheese with my team!
What were the specific challenges that you faced during your preparation and how were they different from the ones at the actual negotiation round?
Our preparation was about building repertoire so we had the tools and experience to deal with any situation thrown at us in competition. This meant practicing against different styles and experiencing as many different situations as possible. I found this quite difficult during the process because it didn’t feel like I was getting any better during preparation, but after a while it you start to feel comfortable in the unknown or in new situations.
You can never predict what will happen in competition or in a negotiation, there are too many unknown variables – so there was no point trying to. Personality, the other side’s confidential information, their strategy and their teamwork are all unknowns that you can’t control. In competition, the challenge was staying present and, in the moment, so we were able to choose the right tool for the right moment.
Choosing your partner is indeed an important decision. How did you start and how did you form a team dynamic and use the synergy to your benefit?
Our team had four members and we are all very close friends – even before the competition and training started. A great team is one built on trust and understanding one another, and from very early on we were able to build that dynamic because we knew each other personally. We always made sure to hang out or go for dinner after training or a competition round in Paris. We knew each other so well that we could tell when to support or step in and save one another without asking – Nadhirah (his teammate) has saved me so many times I’ve lost count!
There are various ways of negotiating. Every team, in fact every individual has a different style of approaching a negotiation. Please tell us something about your approach. Do you think it gives you an edge over other teams?
Our style is simple: we try to do the right things for the right reasons. We will always try to be as open and honest as possible because interest-based negotiation is all about creating value at the table. You can’t do that if you are not willing to share information. We own our weaknesses and make sure that we turn them into points of strength.
We understand that forums like ICC gives you an opportunity to negotiate with a diverse set of people. How do you reconcile the cultural differences?
With 65 other teams from 32 countries, the Paris competition is a celebration of different cultures. I don’t think there is one right way of managing cultural differences, but the starting point to recognizing that they exist. From there, it is about being open minded and aware that communication can be interpreted differently, and meaning is something that depends not only on culture but also the individual. It’s something that I am continually learning, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.
Do you plan to pursue a career in the field of negotiation/mediation? How do you think it is perceived in the professional space?
I think that whatever I decide to do, negotiation will definitely be a part of it. Being able to negotiate is an important skill, not only for lawyers and business people but in every day life. It is a skill that is recognized and valued by professionals because it shows that you are an excellent communicator and that you can look past the surface of problems and disputes to the real reasons and interests at play.
What according to you is the best way of strategically utilizing the mediator?
This is a tough question! I don’t think there is one best way – it is all situation specific. As a rule of thumb, remember that the mediator is there to help you – they have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be a useful resource. Don’t forget that you can ask them for advice! When you are having a difficult time or are uncertain in the mediation, call a caucus and explain what you are trying to do. They are there to help you, but you have to give them the chance.
Quite a few people think that extensive reading and academic engagement is important for a better understanding of the issues at hand. What do you think about it? Did you review any particular articles or books that helped you with your preparation?
Understanding the theory is important because it helps you understand why you should do something. Required reading for our team was Fisher and Ury’s book Getting to Yes – it’s a great text for understanding the principles of interest-based negotiation. With that being said, negotiation is a practical skill and there is only so much you can learn from reading – the best way to learn is by doing.
What does it take to win? What are your suggestions for those participating in such competitions for the first time?
Prepare and train so that you don’t have to think about it when you need to perform. Prepare so that you can be present and in the moment. Listen to what they are saying, not to what you expect them to say. Try to respond rather than react to what is being said.
Being present and in the moment also means realizing that you may be in a new environment or a new country, with many interesting and talented people who share similar interests – so don’t forget to have some fun and enjoy it!