‘Not just any competition’: Winners of the Comparative Law in Action Challenge on what they learned

‘The competition was a steep learning curve for every member of the group, but that is precisely what made it such an enriching experience’. Tilburg Law School’s Global Law students, winners the first IE University Comparative Law in Action Competition, spoke with IE and shared how the competition took their knowledge and skills to a new level.

In the first IE Comparative Law in  Action Challenge students of top law schools around the world participated to find comparative law solutions to social unrest challenges facing ‘Lalaland’. The other participating universities were IE Madrid, Edinburgh University, Maastricht University, FGV Brazil, and Bocconi University.

The Tilburg Law School’s team consisted of third-year Global Law students Reuben Hofman, Nicolas de Laparre de Saint Sernin and Hanna Verberne, and fast-tracker Lucy Wen. The team was coached by Ph.D. researcher Shanya Ruhela.

IE Law School spoke with the winners, who revealed what they learned by participating in this global challenge.  

What are the key learnings you take and highlight from the Comparative Law in Action Challenge? 

Students: The IE Comparative Law in Action Competition was a steep learning curve for every member of the group, but that is precisely what made it such an enriching experience. Among the most important lessons from the Comparative Law in Action Competition were the professional writing skills we learned through the drafting a public policy report. This required a different approach than writing an academic paper. Having to draft a public policy report for the fictional case of Lalaland also allowed us to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Additionally, working on a multi-disciplinary case in a group setting provided further opportunities to develop ourselves. The multi-disciplinary aspect taught the group how the law does not operate in a vacuum. Rather, there is always the interaction between legal and non-legal fields such as electoral law and fake news.  Understanding this interaction is important to note in the growing number of regulatory complexities facing policymakers and lawyers of the 21st century. Moreover, working in a group setting taught us the intricacies of group dynamics and bolstered our soft skills such as negotiating when the group needed to decide on a course of action.

Lastly, the Comparative Law in Action Competition provided our group with the opportunity to further polish our analytical skills as every group member conducted vast amounts of research. Upon conducting this research every group member provided each other with many rounds of feedback. This sharpened our analytical skills as we learned to pay more attention to detail.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the competition?  

Students: The most challenging aspect of the competition proved to be the communication of solid legal arguments concisely and clearly for policymakers. Despite all the research that the group had done, it was a sizeable challenge to convey this legal knowledge in a 3,000-word report.  This taught us the crucial lesson that a public policy proposal need not be lengthy to provide solid and well-researched public policy arguments. Moreover, this competition taught us that legally complex arguments are most effective when everyone can understand the argument being made. This also became apparent when conducting our executive presentation before our distinguished panel of judges.

What are the key learnings you take of the Comparative law in Action Challenge? 

Shanya Ruhela: The competition enabled the students to seek solutions that were outside the box. Though the work might be rooted in theoretical foundations in law, the solutions that the students provided were rooted in practicality and hence, relevant for real life scenarios. Competitions like these require students to work effectively as a team. Throughout the process the students became each other's best critics and strongest cheerleaders. Further, the competition provided the students with a platform to showcase their substantive knowledge as well as soft skills.

What are the skills/knowledge/training required of lawyers in the future? 

Shanya Ruhela and Morag Goodwin, Professor of Global Law and Development at Tilburg Law School: Adaptability and an innovative bent of mind are pivotal to legal professionals wishing to succeed in the future. Contradictions and polarization have become inherent in today's world. In order to serve clients in such a volatile environment, lawyers need to be creative and adapt to the changing and challenging circumstances. In addition, the growing nature of transnational legal practice requires today’s lawyers to be able to contextualise their own legal system and to conduct research and negotiation within other legal orders; this is only going to increase. Finally, this same trend entails that lawyers will increasingly work in mutli-cultural, multi-legal teams; this requires tomorrow’s lawyers to be able to thrive in diversity: not a diversity that is reduced to a single form of internationalism but one that is truly diverse. This is a question of mind-set; in order to learn from others, one needs to be able to relativise one’s own knowledge and skills.

What are the new/disruptive tends you have detected in legal education for the next decade? 

Morag Goodwin, Professor of Global Law and Development at Tilburg Law School: I see three trends in legal education that we are going to need to (also should want to) grapple with in the coming decade. The first is the need to de-colonise the curriculum. Legal education cannot ignore the developments elsewhere in the academy and there are some trailblazers that we can learn from e.g. Birmingham in their Global Legal Studies programme or Oslo and their decision to mainstream gender issues throughout all courses. The second is the growing role of technology in legal practice and the need for students to understand how algorithms function and how data markets are created and exploited. A lot of legal practice in the coming decades will be about data. The third trend is one that will affect higher education more broadly and which it will be difficult to insulate legal education from; that is, the trend towards micro-badging skills and knowledge across a range of institutions, leading to a self-created bachelor programme.


Message from Jan Versteeg, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Spain, and member of the jury, to the winning team: 

“Originally a business school, IE has evolved into an impressive university that honours its lemma ‘Unus Mundus Mentes Diversae’ (One World, Diverse Minds). Its long established law department was prompted to organize this competition by the challenges that are posed by the unprecedented speed of disruptive technologies and the requirement to protect citizens and uphold the rule of law. Which ambassador could say no to an invitation to contribute to that event as a jury member.

The pitching event on April 10th was the culmination of a long period of thorough preparations by the teams of these six top law schools. The written proposals for changes to constitutional and electoral law in fictitious country Lalaland, with special attention for electronic and expat voting, had already been graded by a jury of legal experts. I understand that Bocconi and FGV Dieito did particularly well, but the runners up followed on their heels. The oral presentations were judged by embassy representatives from the countries of the participating universities, and by experts on law and technologies.

Despite the stiff competition, the Tilburg team was unanimously chosen as the overall number 1. Being born at 200 m. from the Tilburg University campus, I felt obliged to keep a low profile during the performance discussion of this particular team. But Hanna, Nicolas, Rueben and Lucy were so well prepared and presented their case in such a convincing way that my vote was absolutely unnecessary to make them the winners. They convinced the jury with a thorough knowledge of the legal aspects and excellent presentation skills. Personally, I was impressed by the way in which they put the ‘Why?’ question at the centre of their reasoning. A warm congratulation to the team, their coaches and the academic staff that gave them the necessary preparation.

Check out the Award Ceremony here