The evening of 2 March 2021 saw the highly-anticipated Grand Finals of the International Commercial Arbitration Moot (ICAM) being held at the Wee Chong Jin Moot Court in NUS Law. Sponsored by WongPartnership, one of Singapore’s leading law firms, ICAM is Singapore’s only arbitration moot. As its name suggests, ICAM focuses on international commercial arbitration, governed by the rules of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).
In its 13th consecutive year, this prestigious moot saw 73 submissions being narrowed down to 4 finalists: Melvinder Singh ’23, Ryan Jay Naidu ’23, Chew Qing Xuan Kyna ’23 and Don Lok Song Ze ’24. Presiding over the moot as judges were Justice Ang Cheng Hock S.C., Ms Judith Gill Q.C. of Twenty Essex and Mr Chou Sean Yu, Head of WongPartnership’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution Department.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the preliminary and semi-finals of ICAM were held online for the first time. Furthermore, the number of audience at the Grand Finals was capped at 50, given social distancing requirements. Nonetheless, excitement was high and the air was ripe with anticipation.
This year’s moot problem involved the termination of a contract between a cake company and chocolate manufacturer. To determine if this termination was rightful, the issues raised were whether the contract included an express termination clause, whether the claimant was obliged to exercise her right to terminate the contract in good faith, and whether the respondent’s failure to pay on time was a breach of condition.
The moot began with Melvinder Singh for the claimant persuasively laying out the salient facts, before confidently arguing the contract included an express termination clause. His confident responses to the challenging questions posed by the judges was remarkable. For instance, he remained undaunted when Justice Ang asked whether it was appropriate for this preliminary hearing to consider evidence as to whether parties objectively agreed to the express termination clause. However, given the strong questioning he faced, Melvinder conceded that the bench remained unconvinced on this point, before smoothly moving on to his second point to argue that the respondent’s late payments breached a condition of the contract.
Next, Don Loke for the respondent gave a clear roadmap of his submissions, before convincingly arguing that there was no objective acceptance of the express termination clause. His thorough preparation for the moot was evident when he guided Ms Juidth Gill through the definition of a “best effort” clause by relying on case law and dealing confidently with the distinction between best interest and reasonable excuse.
Addressing the second issue on whether the claimant was obliged to exercise her right to terminate the contract in good faith, Ryan Naidu for the claimant delivered cogent arguments to explain why the claimant was not under any good faith obligation. He was immediately questioned at the beginning of his submissions as to whether this argument contradicted his co-counsel Melvinder’s argument that termination of the contract must be reasonable. However, he remained calm and masterfully used case law to explain why reasonableness differed from good faith, as the former depended on the reasonable man test while the doctrine of good faith was much broader.
Lastly, Kyna Chew for the respondent began her submissions with a well crafted pun, arguing that the claimant (a cake company) could not “have her cake and eat it”, sending the audience into laughter. Her persuasive tone and steadfast arguments were well-delivered, and she volleyed questions from the bench with ease and confidence.
Following a fifteen minute break where the judges deliberated the results, the audience and finalists re-convened and awaited with baited breath for the outcome of the moot. The final results are as follows:
Champion: Chew Qing Xuan Kyna ’23
First Runner up: Ryan Jay Naidu ‘23
Second Runner up: Melinder Singh ’23
Second Runner Up: Don Loke Song Ze ’24
Best Memorial: Goh Cheng Wei Benjamin ‘24
Congratulations to the finalists and the winners of the respective awards! The outstanding performance delivered by all finalists was commended by the judges, who expressed their amazement at the finalists’ knowledge of the law and ability to stay engaged with the tribunal. Justice Ang gave some good advice on ensuring arguments between co-counsels should flow logically and not be disjointed. Furthermore, he encouraged participants that questions from the tribunal, no matter how they are phrased, are meant to test the limits of the argument, and therefore one should not give up their argument easily just because it appears the tribunal is not with them! After all, it’s of great importance for participants to relate and connect with the tribunal, therefore they should want to engage and answer questions.
With that, Professor Simon Chesterman presented tokens of appreciation to the arbitrators, and the Grand Finals of ICAM’2021 came to a close. This was certainly a fruitful and insightful experience which taught me a great deal about mooting skills! Great job to the MDC organising committee as well for all their hard work in making this event a success!
[Credit to MDC for the Photos]