There are lots of things in life worth doing and lots of places worth to be visited. There are lots of experiences one might consider as unforgettable. But only a few of them will manage to irreversibly transform you. These were the thoughts wondering through my head as the flight captain was announcing our successful takeoff from Barcelona and wishing us a smooth flight back to Paris. Taking one last look at the city through the airplane window I was sadly realizing the fact that one of the most interesting experiences of my academic life, the Themis seminar – “International litigation” was over.
The seminar took place in Barcelona from March 21st to March 23rd and was integrated into the broader Themis Program and along with the exchange semester in one of the partner universities and the internship abroad it grants the Joint certificate in International and Business Law to all participating students. However, out of these three elements, I would unhesitatingly name the international seminar as the most important one since it showed me what being a Themis student really is about.
Hosted by the ESADE University from Barcelona, the seminar covered this year the topic of International litigation. Few words must be spent on the importance of the issue. For the international practice of a future lawyer, litigation and dispute resolution (particularly international arbitration) will play a critical role. For each participating student, the seminar managed to build over the existing knowledge a well-rounded legal education helping us to develop essential advocacy skills and to understand procedural key aspects of an arbitration process.
The seminar was comprised out of a theoretical part and a moot court at the end of the classes. One of its pivotal strengths rests exactly in its double-sided structure. It is different from a simple theoretical program or arbitration simulation since it combines both of them: students have the opportunity to absorb and analyze complex legal notions and on the same time to apply them in front of an arbitration panel.
The courses are taught by teachers from the partner universities offering an intensive three days training period. Of key importance is the fact that the classes have a pronounced international and comparative aspect. The introduced legal notions are treated from a comparative perspective, presenting the different approaches of major legal systems and offering an objective and flexible view of them.
Each day courses ended at 2 p.m. which gave us enough time to explore and taste a bit of Barcelona’s wonders. It is spectacular how cultural, tourist and industrial life can be mixed within Barcelona. The city is of a staggering beauty. Its rich architectural heritage quickly seduced me and anyone spending a few hours wondering on its streets can see why. Moreover, the organizers managed to include in the program a series of informal events (such as a Themis dinner and a group visit at one of Barcelona’s most representative buildings – the Palau de la Musica Catalana) which introduced Themis students into an incredible atmosphere and gave us the chance to exchange ideas and to share our thoughts with visiting teachers or other law professionals in a laid back atmosphere.
The Barcelona experience culminated with a moot-court exercise in the final day of the seminar. It was by far the most enriching experience a law student can have since it gave me the chance to catch a glimpse of what practicing law will really be like. Divided in four teams, students had to defend the interests of their clients in a simulated process in front of an arbitration panel composed of experienced practitioners. According to the moot court rules pleaders had to be changed with each round thus providing all of us with the opportunity to represent their teams in front of the panel and to develop and enhance our advocacy skills. Last but not least, the moot court tested and deepened our intellectual flexibility and our ability to work under pressure.
However, one of the most marvelous experiences came from the fact that the competing teams were a mixture of students from different universities merged into a colorful cultural mosaic. This gave us the opportunity to interact with other legal cultures, to expand our ideas and to diversify our views over various concepts of law. I found myself engaging novel legal issues, and acquiring at the end the capacity to look at them through different perspectives or “different pairs of glasses” (to retake the words of one of the speakers).
Drawing the line, I can state without error that what made the seminar so special was the network created between the participating students and what it now represents for all of us. The experience in Barcelona embodied the ‘extra mile’ spirit of the whole Themis program and gave students the opportunity to know each other and to make new friends. It managed to bring together all students enrolled in the program, 38 like-minded individuals, from five different countries, people that you can work with or learn from in various ways, all of them forming for three short days a single, inseparable element.
Completing the academic experience, the seminar was at the same time a social networking event. It created unique connections between students which transcend any national or institutional boundaries. It resulted into a monolith informal structure – the Themis students’ network – which will survive the passage of time and will always have enshrined into its soul the single element which brought us together: the Themis seminar.
I can gracefully recognize that this international seminar ultimately meant a personal transformation: I arrived in Barcelona as a simple law student and I left out of there as a Themis student.
Université Paris Est Créteil