W&L Law Student Blogs Her Way to China

Lexington, VA Thursday, May 13, 2010

Massie Payne '11L
A third-year law student at Washington and Lee University has earned a trip to China on the basis of her real-time blogging of a symposium about international investment disputes.

Massie Payne will served as an expert assistant for the United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) International Investment Agreements Conference 2010 in Xiamen, China. She was chosen by organizers of the Washington and Lee and United Nations Joint Symposium on International Investment and Alternative Dispute Resolution, held on March 29 in Lexington, Virginia.

Payne and other W&L law students reported on the conference as it unfolded. Their posts and discussion threads using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter informed interested parties around the world about the topics under discussion in the Lewis Hall Millhiser Moot Courtroom in Lexington.

Real-time reporting from public events such as conferences, concerts, and sporting events via social media tools is increasingly popular in an era of instant communication. These "iReporters" allow fans and followers to participate in important events happening anywhere and anytime, even on the other side of the world.

This was the critical service that W&L students provided during the symposium. As they kept interested parties informed, the students were also vying for the title of "Best Blogger," which Payne won.

At the Joint Symposium, over 80 practitioners, scholars, and government officials from around the world joined the students in attendance to augment conference dialog through posts on a Facebook group page and through Twitter using a dedicated conference "hashtag." Still others watched the live web feed and joined in as well through the social networking sites.  Moderators of each of the symposium's three main panels monitored the online "micro-blogging," selecting questions and observations posted online to highlight alongside questions and exchanges from the in-person participants. 

Organizers noted that given the high quality and quantity of contributions by W&L students, the final decision was challenging.  But the UNCTAD organization board ultimately selected Payne, who also served as one of several student organizers of the symposium, due to her reporting and critical analysis of investment disputes across both Facebook and Twitter.  

"I am honored to represent Washington and Lee at the World Investment Forum and am excited to continue to work with UNCTAD," said Payne, who will spend the summer clerking for the firm LeClairRyan.  "I am incredibly grateful to Professor Franck and UNCTAD for bringing this wonderful opportunity to W&L." 

Payne's duties in China will include more online reporting through a blog and other outlets, as well as offering organizational assistance in connection with conference in China. This includes helping support and report on the World Investment Forum, held in conjunction with the UNCTAD conference.

Technology played a large role on the day of the symposium and throughout the planning and buildup to the event. W&L created a website devoted to international investment and alternative dispute resolution research.  The website hosted a secure blog for brainstorming in advance of the Joint Symposium where key stakeholders in international investment law, including several people who were unable to attend the in-person symposium, posted video podcasts and other content. 

Conference organizers believe the variety of technological applications and communication tools used helped foster a new kind a global dialogue on this important issue and set a new standard on how future international law conferences will generate and disseminate ideas irrespective of where participants are geographically situated. 

Lucy Reed, a Partner at Freshfields and immediate past president of the American Society of International Law, delivered the closing remarks at the symposium. Reed agreed with this organizers' assessment.

"One of the key achievements of the Joint Symposium was its genuinely innovative use of technology -- before, during and after the conference," said Reed.

James Zhan, Director of the Division on Investment and Enterprise at UNCTAD stated, "We are delighted to be a part of this innovative use of technology to foster larger stakeholder dialogue.  We look forward to expanding this model to develop a future generation of lawyers and transnational legal networks to promote a stable, predictable and coherent framework for investment law that fosters sustainable international development and promotes the Millennium Development Goals."

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