Law students to compete in Scotland

Shiona Mackenzie


They're packing their bags and heading for Galldachd (the Lowlands of Scotland) to sort out some neighbourhood nuisance. Second year students in CityU's School of Law, Fanny Ting Fong Siu and Timothy Ma Tin Tai teamed up to outperform Hong Kong University (HKU) in the Hong Kong Round of the Louis M Brown International Client Counselling Competition (ICCC) on 31st January 2004. As winners of the Hong Kong Round, they will progress to the International Round of the Competition, 29 March¡V2 April, at the University of Glasgow. While this is the fourth year that CityU is to participate in the ICCC, hosted by a different nation annually, it is the first time the University is taking part as a victor rather than as the sole regional representative. CityU teams competed in South Africa in 2003, in Florida in 2002, and in New Zealand in 2001.

"It's totally different from doing coursework and studying textbook law. Tim and I decided to get involved in order to increase our practical experience and have something interesting to put on our CVs," Fanny said. Tim concurred, "It's definitely beneficial, because it gives us an opportunity to enhance our skills and so to become more successful lawyers in the future."

Programme Leader Mr Tony Upham provided intensive training to CityU's two contending teams selected by internal elimination from among five raring to go. It was a real challenge. "We didn't have much time to prepare because we had other assignments due just before the elimination round between CityU and HKU," Tim confessed, "but Mr Upham gave us excellent coaching. We had no prior experience in client counselling." Mr Upham explained, "This year's topic is 'problems and nuisance with neighbours.' The students are given quite realistic scenarios—a pig farm in the New Territories, pollution of streams, a noisy dog that bites children, that sort of thing. They are given ethical problems to cope with, such as a client who admits he's lying, and professional conduct problems are thrown into the equation so the students develop as 'whole' lawyers before entering legal practice."

"This introduction shows how successful it can be."
According to Mr Upham, "What we do in this competition is the sort of thing we'll be doing much more of in our teaching from now on. The School of Law moves to the four-year degree very soon, and interactive assessments will be carried out in the future. This introduction shows how successful it can be. We also had a lot of fun during the training." The other CityU team to take up the challenge in Hong Kong comprised second year SLW students Vania Kam Ching Man and Nikki Lam Kwan Wai . Another SLW student, Nicky Tse Sai Hang , who attended ICCC 2003 in South Africa as an observer, was responsible for organizing the Hong Kong Round this year. "Being an observer last year and seeing how a solicitor deals with clients was a valuable experience," Nicky said. He earned last year's chance by agreeing to undertake the hard work of managing behind-the-scenes logistics this year, and he feels it was well worth the effort.

The Hong Kong Round had two half-day sessions. Adjudicating the top two CityU teams in the morning session as they battled each other for the privilege of vying against HKU, were: Dr Bryan Bachner (SLW); Charles Ou (SLW); Paul Stephenson (Barrister); Annie Carver (HKU), Anne-Scully-Hill (SLW) and Eric Chiu (SLW). The afternoon session, in which each University's best team went head-to-head, was adjudicated by senior partner in Knight & Ho Christopher Knight ; Director of Professional Development MindTheme Consulting Terri Mottershead , and Associate Professor (SLW) Louise Barrington .

"Frankly, I was very impressed by the quality of these student competitors," Miss Barrington commented. "Their preparation, poise and teamwork would put many practising lawyers to shame! This whole exercise shows that, when we put our minds to it, the law schools can produce excellent practitioners with the legal skills so valued by the profession. What's more, they learn right from Day One, that the client comes first."

Lawyer-client interview role-play
The teams are evaluated on their practical skills, particularly the counselling and interview aspects of legal practice, as demonstrated in a simulated law-office consultation. First, the teams receive brief notes on the client's complaint; they prepare for and then role-play a lawyer-client interview. Finally, the teams explain how they would proceed to handle the hypothetical case. Up to 45 minutes is allowed for the process, before the international panel of seven judges, usually comprising at least two lawyers and a counsellor (often a social worker, minister or psychologist), critiques the teams.

Developed as a legal teaching technique in 1969 by the late Professor Louis M Brown of the University of Southern California Law Centre, the Client Counselling Competition was originally named the Mock Law Office Competition and initially just two schools competed each time. Then, in 1972, it was adopted by the American Bar Association, laying the foundations for the 1985 launch of the International Client Counselling Competition¡Xan opportunity for law students, teachers and legal practitioners to share practical educational and cultural experience. Today, the ICCC brings together winning teams of law students from national competitions around the world, including Australia, Canada, the Cayman Islands, England, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the United States. The ICCC is an affiliate of the International Bar Association.



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