A confiscated oil tanker became the basis for a battle between a multinational oil corporation and the New Zealand Government.
The facts of the case were fiction but the arguments were real when two Wynn Williams’s solicitors – Guy Carter and Matthew Prendergast – were hailed as the NZ National Young Lawyers Mooting Champions in Wellington last Thursday.
The event – supported by the New Zealand Law Foundation, New Zealand Law Society and the New Zealand Bar Association – featured regional competitions, whittling down the country’s best to come head-to-head at last week’s national final.
Carter told NZLawyer
the moot involved a couple of issues
“One was a choice of law and one was dealing with prerogative powers.
“The basic fact situation was the appellants were acting for a multinational oil exploration company which was based in American Samoa, and the NZ Navy was based on patrol there at the invitation of the US Government.
“They discovered what they thought to be an oil leak, so took action to board the boat and tow it back to New Zealand, at which point the oil company sued the New Zealand Government for the return of its vessel.”
Carter and Prendergast – both University of Canterbury alumni who were a year apart in their study - were acting for the oil company.
In terms of the problem the pair probably had the easier argument, Carter said.
“It’s the nature of moots that one team is always going to.
“But from our understanding of moots are assessed on advocacy, and how you try and deal with the particular argument that you have,” Prendergast added.
Throughout university and during their 4 and 3.5-year-long careers respectively, Carter and Prendergast have both been strong mooters, with Carter winning the University of Canterbury’s overall law school moot.
Carter believed the pair had strengthened their mooting skills through the hands-on in-court experience they’d received at Wynn Williams.
“The firm we work for actually does allow us to get into court on a regular basis, and I think that that is experience is particularly in terms of being able to gauge what a judge is looking for.”
Carter said he enjoyed spending his time on his feet in court.
“Here at Wynn Williams I’ll get opportunities to do that further.”
Prendergast echoed Carter’s sentiments. “I’m just looking to get as much court time as possible, and look to progress in that matter, taking on more senior roles with more complex hearings.”
When asked what he most enjoyed about his job, Carter responded: “Something that litigation offers is that you do get a wide range of clients, so on any given day I might be dealing with someone who’s defending an assault charge to a company that’s got a major complex commercial dispute on its hands. That’s what I like about it – the variety that you get in a day.”
Prendergast also enjoyed the variety. “You turn up and you don’t know what will crop up during the day – it often doesn’t go to plan. I also enjoy the problem-solving element of litigation. Also the client interaction – it’s nice working for a firm of this size where you jump off the cliff a lot earlier in terms of client interaction, and having to take responsibility at a relatively early stage in our careers.”
Carter has no further plans for mooting competitions in the horizons.
“I suspect I’ll be hanging up my mooting boots.”
“I don’t think we’ve been shoulder-tapped for international teams yet,” Prendergast added.