MAASTRICHT. A pianist starts playing at the official opening of the International Client Consultation Competition (ICCC), hosted last Wednesday by the Maastricht Faculty of Law. All of a sudden a tenor stands up from the audience and starts to sing, as three others join him in performing the satirical composition So You Want to Write a Fugue? That’s not what the 22 student teams will do in the next three days – but theirs is no small feat either. They are here to determine who the best client consultant is.
The Dutch team, made up of students from Maastricht University, enters a small room at the law faculty on Thursday afternoon. Three judges are already waiting for them. “Shall we synchronize our watches?” the students ask. Once they have invited their ‘client’ in, the clock starts ticking: the team has 45 minutes to complete the consultation.
The idea behind the ICCC is to simulate an initial meeting between a client (played by an actor) and two lawyers (the team members). Students are expected to elicit relevant information from the client, identify the problem and the client’s preferred outcome, and present (a range of) solutions.
This year’s theme is contracts. In this first round, the teams meet Sam Duval, the president of a small aviation company. He bought a plane at an online auction from a South African company for a good price. He sold it on at a profit to one of his clients, but when he got in touch with the South Africans to give them his client’s contact details they told him there had been a mistake. The auction site had failed to list the minimum bid – which was much higher than Duval had offered. Refusing to buy the plane at the new price – “It was their mistake, not mine” – he informs his client that the deal is off. A week later he learns that the South Africans have gone to his client directly and sold him the plane for less than Duval was asking.
“What’s a normal price for this type of plane?” After listening to Duval’s story, the Dutch team quickly comes to the point: could Duval have known that the South Africans had made a mistake? Was the original price so low that he should have been suspicious? Duval denies this. “It’s always a gamble. When you win the auction, you pay a 10 percent deposit. If, after inspection, you decide you don’t want the plane after all, you’re only out that amount of money. I couldn’t tell from the pictures that this plane was in better shape than I expected. I got lucky. It’s not my problem the original seller couldn’t price it correctly.”
The Georgian team, which is competing against the Dutch in this round, takes a different approach but has the same aim. “How long have you had your business? How many planes have you bought and sold in that time? Do you have a prior background in aviation?” Their style is different to the Dutch team. They seem more chaotic, according to the jury, but the client (whose opinion is also asked before the jury makes its decision) found them to be more emphatic. “They really got what I wanted and they put me at ease. When I mentioned I don’t like lawyers, they made a joke – ‘hopefully that changes today’. The Dutch team never picked up on that.”
In the end, it’s their professional approach, good teamwork and on-point questions that wins the Dutch team this round. But their run comes to an end in the semifinals where they come up against the later winner, the US team, which remained unbeaten throughout the competition.