Fighting the fight against a lack of information on Canadian Law Schools.
UG CGPA: ###
LS Class: ####
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
This is a trial advocacy competition, and I would have to say is the most fun out of all of them. Again, as with all the previous competitions, a case is argued with teams of two opposing each other. A hypotheitical case is given and the object of the exercise is to present your case based on witness testimony. Each side brings their own witness (a friend who is nice enough to give up a couple of hours of their evening to role play) whose testimony they would present in their examination-in-chief and they would also be allowed to cross-examine the opposing witness. The format is as follows:
Opening Statement (Plaintiff)
Opening Statement (Defendant)
Cross-examination of Plaintiff
Cross-examination of Defendant
Closing Statement (Plaintiff)
Closing Statement (Defendant)
Each examination of the witness is allotted a 10 minute time limit and the opening and closing statements are allotted 5 minutes each. Since there are 2 per side, each person gets to present 2 sections of the trial. I presented the cross-examination and the closing statement for the defendant.
Before the competition, all participants attended a 'skills session' hosted by Lerners LLP where a partner of the firm gave us tips on how to approach the different sections of the trial.
The opening and closing statements are like the introduction and conclusion of an essay where a theory [of the case] is presented and restated respectively. The opening introduces the facts that the judges will hear from the witnesses and the conclusion reiterates the main facts that support your case.
The examinations of the witnesses is where the fun comes in - where you really get to play the role of the advocate. "The examination-in-chief is all about the witness" we were told. The focus has to be on them, as if they were telling a story to the judge or jury. So the questions have to be open-ended. They have to allow the witness to tell their side of the story and bring up the main points of their defence. It brings out their persona, sets the scene of the event(s) in question from their perspective and should make the listener feel compelled to side with that witness. It's difficult to do this without asking 'leading' questions - questions that direct the witness to say what you, as their counsel, want them to say. The jury can easily pick up on this and that can work against you.
"The cross-examination is all about the you." All focus goes to counsel asking the questions. The questions must be direct and to the point where the only answers required are either "yes" or "no". These questsions must paint a picture of the witness to the detriment of their case and must strengthen yours. This is pretty fun because you can be quick and snappy and ask questions that really make that witness look bad. In the meanwhile you can look like a bit of an ass but not necessarily. It all depends on how you approach it. I decided to use the slightly sarcastic confused approach when tearing apart her testimony, which worked pretty well. BUT I made the mistake of asking a couple of questions which had answers that were clearly open to debate... DO NOT make this mistake in a cross-examination because even the slowest of witnesses can run away with these types of questions and you can end up losing control of the examination very quickly.
There was quite a bit of preparation that went this on our team's part because we felt that our case must follow our theory of the case throughout. We made sure that what each of us presented in our sections would fit well together and that there was no repetition unless it was to show different sides of an issue. I would say that the examinations took the longest time to prepare for because it is tricky to formulate the questions to draw out a story in the examination-in-chief and also difficult to make sure you are asking only direct questions, while still making valid points and inferences, in the cross-examination.
In this competition you are judged on your presentation skills and how well you controlled the subject matter of your sections to your sides advantage. In this competition, individuals advance to the final round rather than teams because you are judged individually.
BLG Client Counselling Competition
This one was short and sweet. Not much preparation went into this. Basically, a team of two people would be judged on how well they interviewed a potential client from start to finish. Even the wrap-up between the two team members, when the 'client' leaves the office, is judged. The objective of this is to see how well you can interview a client in terms of making them feel at ease (small talk, explaining fees, etc), drawing out their concerns, formulating a plan of action and next steps, and then evaluating yourselves afterward.
It's quick and dirty - takes about 45 minutes to do including feedback from the judges. The only preparation we did for this was to draw up a fake information package for our pretend law firm. Since the topic for this year's competition was Sports and Entertainment Law (we were told this in the info session) my partner, Aaron Lee-Wudrick, and I decided to name our law firm PLAY LLP (Purohit, Lee-Wudrick, Andrews, Young) and we created a logo for it with a one pager inside stating what the firm did and confidentiality and lawyers' fees and all that. The judges and the 'client' were impressed so that earned us some brownie points.
And that's all the competitions that I could participate in this semester! I'm actually in the middle of exams right now so I'll try and post soon about the actual exams and the exam period. It's an experience, that's for sure.