Two UCLA School of Law students have founded an organization to boost the success of future students who participate in elite international law competitions.
Andrew Barondess ’20 and Charlotte Leszinske ’20 launched UCLA Law’s Vis International Moot Organization (VIMO) in 2019 to bolster the law school’s efforts in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, the leading student competition for international arbitration. The Vis moot court involves a series of international events that culminate in an annual competition in Vienna, Austria, featuring more than 400 teams from over 90 countries.
Modeled on UCLA Law’s successful mock trial and moot court programs, VIMO will send teams to events around the world, host a competition for Southern California law students at the Century City offices of the arbitration firm JAMS, and offer seminars and other resources for UCLA Law students who seek to improve their international research skills.
The initiative grew out of the experience that Barondess and Leszinske shared with teammates Olivia Florio-Roberts ’19 and Hannah Jung ’20 at the 26th annual Vis moot in Vienna in 2019, where they honed their research, writing and oral advocacy skills and expanded their professional networks.
In the year since, VIMO has grown from four student team members to 10, added funding through generous donations, held a tutorial in international research with UCLA Law librarian Caitlin Hunter and placed in the semifinals in a competition at the University of San Diego School of Law, where Leszinske won an honorable mention for best advocate.
“It was a great honor co-founding the Vis team with Charlotte, and I am excited to see how the team develops in the coming years as it becomes a permanent fixture in the UCLA oral advocacy community,” says Barondess, who served in the Army before law school and will practice leveraged finance in New York after graduation.
Next year, VIMO will be overseen by co-presidents Tyler Leigh ’21 and Elena Aguirre ’21. Barondess and Leszinske also hope to remain involved as alumni mentors.
Leszinske, who will clerk for a court in Maryland after graduation, credits team coach Peter Rosen, a retired Latham & Watkins partner who works as a JAMS mediator, and faculty advisors Jessica Peake of the International and Comparative Law Program and Joel Feuer of the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy.
“I’m very proud of all that our team accomplished this year,” Leszinske says, “and I know next year’s team will be even more successful.”