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The two fictitious countries’ disputes — which include encroachment of national borders by drone and nuclear non-proliferation — are the subject matter for this year’s Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.
Law students from 95 nations will argue cases in the contest, which is the largest mooting contest in the world and the Olympic Games of legal debating.
Former participants have gone on to become leading legal and political figures, and include former Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio.
Otago has previously reached the semifinals, in 2002, a feat Auckland matched in 2012.
Qualifying rounds will be held in Washington DC in March, after which knock-out moots will be staged to decide the overall champion.
Olivia Klinkum (23), now a judge’s clerk at the Court of Appeal, and Zared Wall-Manning (23), a recent graduate, won the New Zealand mooting competition last year, qualifying Otago for the international event for the first time since 2003.
For the competition they will be joined by fifth-year students Patrick O’Boyle (21) and Matthias Schorer (22).The hard work is well under way, the teams having already spent two months preparing 50 pages of preliminary legal submissions.
"There are four very different issues in the set of facts we have been given, and we had to go away and develop complex legal arguments for both sides on all of those issues," Mr Wall-Manning said.
Preparing for the contest had been a crash-course in unfamiliar areas of law for all four.
"It’s been a steep learning curve," Mr Wall-Manning said.
"Throughout our law degrees our training has been advocacy rather than international law, so the challenge for this has been learning four completely new areas of law.
"It is very different from the New Zealand format — it’s a different style of mooting," Ms Klinkum said.
Each competitor is preparing a 20-minute oral statement for the competition — and battling to come up ideas for other aspects of the competition week.
"There is a week of full-on competition, but there will also be workshops and events," team coach and Otago law lecturer Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere said.
"There is also a national dress day, and we’re struggling to work out what we will do to represent New Zealand in that at the moment."