Team Finishes in Top 16 at Worldwide Moot Court Competition

Justin Cole ’23, Alaa Hachem ’24, Matei Alexianu ’23, Thomas Poston ’24, and Ali Hakim ’24 outdoors with buildings and trees behind
Yale Law School's 2023 Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition team: from left, Justin Cole ’23, Alaa Hachem ’24, Matei Alexianu ’23, Thomas Poston ’24, and Ali Hakim ’24. The team advanced to the international stage of the tournament in April, finishing in the top 16.

Two students took home individual prizes from the world’s largest moot court competition, where Yale Law School was one of two last U.S. teams standing by the tournament’s end.

Matei Alexianu ’23 and Justin Cole ’23 were named second-best and 10th-best oralists respectively at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition last month. Alexianu’s score for his oral arguments put him less than a point away from the top oralist in the entire tournament, which had more than 400 individual competitors.

“Overall, Jessup was a wonderful experience and probably the most enjoyable and rewarding thing I’ve done during law school,” Alexianu said. “We learned an enormous amount about international law, really honed our legal writing and oral advocacy skills, and built a tight-knit and supportive community in the process.”

The Jessup is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. Teams prepare oral and written pleadings arguing both the applicant and respondent positions of the case. Individual oralists, or speakers, are scored on their pleadings. The competition is organized as a single-elimination tournament, with teams from more than 700 schools competing from the outset and over 100 qualifying for the international rounds. 

Yale’s team — Alexianu, Cole, Alaa Hachem ’24, Ali Hakim ’24, and Thomas Poston ’24, coached by Beatrice Walton ’18 — arrived for the international rounds on April 8 after clinching the Northeast U.S. title the previous month. The team entered the tournament’s round of 48 ranked fifth, having already defeated teams from Kenya, Kosovo, China, and Canada. Moving up through the brackets, the team advanced to the octofinals — the Jessup’s equivalent of the Sweet 16. But a split-decision defeat by Singapore Management University — last year’s world champion runner-up — dashed the team’s hopes for the world championship. It was the first and only defeat of the year for Yale Law School’s team.

“There was a lot of talent from individual competitors around the world,” Cole said. “It was really clear how much work that everyone had put into learning the ins and outs of the case and learning to answer tough questions from the judges.”

Yale’s team and one from George Washington University outlasted every other U.S. team. Jessup has no championship match for countries, but the two teams’ records tie them as unofficial national champions.

Both Alexianu and Cole pledged to stay involved with the Jessup after graduation. Cole even extended a direct offer to Yale Law School’s yet-to-form 2024 team: “To those at Yale who want to do it next year, count me in to help in some capacity!”

Organized by the International Law Students Association, the Jessup competition draws participants from roughly 100 countries and jurisdictions.