22 February 2021
Every year, the Academy of European Law (ERA) in Trier, Germany, holds the prestigious Young Lawyers Contest. In the end, because of the pandemic measures, the third year of the competition took place online on 4 and 5 February 2021, on the VirBela platform (each participant created their own avatar, enabling them to interact with other participants).
The competition is organised in partnership with the Warsaw Bar Association and with the support of CCBE. The project is co-financed by the Justice Programme of the EU 2014-2020. The main purpose of the competition is to bring together young lawyers – associates from different EU Member States – and to help them deepen their knowledge of EU law, through intensive legal training.
10 teams consisting of lawyers from 12 different EU member states competed in the third year of the contest. The Czech Bar Association nominated Patrik Albrecht, who describes his experience as follows:
I entered the competition because in my practice I specialize, among other things, in EU law and competition law. I was assigned to Team 9, together with Stéphanie de Potter from Belgium and Łukasz Ostas from Poland. During our time together we became very close and formed a well-functioning unit. We started working together in October 2020, after choosing the topic of 'COVID-19 and Access to Justice' for our written report.
We produced a 15-page analysis written in English. It addressed questions regarding the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to cases in which access to justice was prevented/restricted (closed courthouses, adjourned and cancelled court proceedings, witness status in a videoconference call etc). This issue is very topical, and I believe that we have made a positive contribution to the professional legal debate. It will certainly continue in the post-COVID period (especially in the terms of issues and challenges of digitalizing justice, ensuring process automation, and AI involvement, and thereby enabling a wider number of people to access justice, while maintaining ensuring a fair trial).
On the first day of the competition, we defended our written analysis orally in front of a jury of lawyers and professors of law from foreign universities (eg London, Madrid, Ghent). We also had an expert discussion with another team, which produced a report on the same topic. In the afternoon, I had the honour of being the main negotiator of our team in a simulated negotiation on the conditions for establishment of a future joint venture. We represented an investor interested in the development and commercial application of an adverse party’s patent. With the help of my team colleagues, we negotiated the basic conditions of cooperation, within the specified 90-minute timeframe (applicable law, prorogation clause, liabilities of the parties, a protection of the majority owner and guarantees for minority holders and other conditions, such as a competition clause). The jury was greatly impressed by our team’s performance, especially by the fact we were one of the few teams able to negotiate the basic conditions within the timescale. Although we protected the client’s rights, we were willing to agree on a compromise solution that saved the project.
The next day, our team served as an observer panel that helped the jury ask the finalists questions in the final round of a moot court on the immunity of a member of the European Parliament.
Under standard circumstances, a social event takes place every evening, which in our case was replaced by a video conference, during which everyone had the opportunity to introduce themselves and say a few sentences about their EU member state. The atmosphere of the whole contest was very friendly and inspiring. The observations and feedback of the jury were very useful for me. I would certainly recommend this competition to anyone who is interested in EU law wants to meet colleagues from other member states. It is also a chance to gain valuable experience from a public presentation of their views and knowledge. At this point, I would also like to thank the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Bar Association, which allowed me to gain this experience.