Law in Practice

Practice makes Perfect.

Why Practical Skills in Law are Important

With practical legal skills, as a law student you're equipped with essential professional skills. Practical training enables you to meet the demands of legal practice, business, industry, or wherever your law degree takes you.

In practical legal skills, law students use highly developed research and analytical skills, and then translate this knowledge into a persuasive and convincing argument. A law graduate emerges from a law degree with not only theoretical knowledge, but technical competency and appreciation of of how the law operates in practice.

Law in Practice provides guides, ideas, suggestions and information as to practical skills training for law students.

Moot Law Essentials

Skills training where law students act as legal counsel - either as a barrister or a solicitor. Law students stand up and present submissions to a judge, based on a hypothetical set of facts.

The Moot: In the Inns of Court in 15th Century, moots were seen as a premier means to train lawyers. Law students would present their legal arguments to senior lawyers or judges as "practice" for a real Court appearance, but without damaging a client's interests!

Today, mooting in Law School is just as useful as its was in the 15th century. The Moot: known to strike fear in the hearts of law students, Counsel is required to stand on his or her feet (firmly!) and present their submissions to the Court. But beware the questioning judge, who expects a precise response to his or her cleverly worded question!

Four essential points for a successful moot

A successful moot requires two things. First, thorough preparation. Second, effective presentation.

Prepare! And prepare some more. Carefully read the facts. Discuss the problem with your partner. Research the applicable law. Predict your opponent's case.

Practice! Rehearse your submission in the car on the way to Uni, the night before in front of the mirror, to your friends, parents, flatmates, dog. Get feedback and make an effort to fix the weak spots. Practice words that are difficult to pronounce. Practice the beginning and end of your talk (these are the parts that are most memorable)

Dress to impress. Look the best you can. Clean. Neat. Well-Presented. Shine your shoes. Usually a law student would present in a suit.

Present! Make first impressions count – walk to the lectern, straight and tall, project confidence, make a strong start and finish!

Other moot tips and recommendations

Don't shout or yell, but speak in a strong voice that can be heard by your listener. Don't mumble, skip over sections, fade away into quietness …

Simple Statements, Stated Simply – don't convolute matters – explain your argument clearly, simply and in a straight-forward way. Use simple words that you can explain to your listener. Talk to the educated listener who may not be as knowledgeable in the topic as you. Strive to educate your listener on your submission.

Use gestures naturally – never forced, just whatever comes naturally.

Listen to questions carefully, and respond appropriately. Don't jump the gun! Listen to what you are being asked. You do not have to answer immediately.

Take a second to gather your thoughts and then give a confident and concise answer. Never ignore a question you are being asked, or try to get around it – the listener will be fully aware. Be honest if you do not know the answer.

Pay attention to formalities. Are you required to address the Court as "Your Honour"? or some equivalent formality? Must you make appearances? Do you need to give full case citations? Find out beforehand, and be ready to comply with these formalities confidently and smoothly.

Essential Moot Skills Links

Moot advice @ Australian Law Students' Society Competitions

The Lawbore Video Guide to Mooting - a useful UK site showing seven video clips on what to do (and what not to do) in mooting.

Recommended Books on Mooting

Wolski, B., Skills, Ethics and Values for Legal Practice, Thomsons Lawbook Co, 2nd edition, 2008

Hyams, R., Campbell, S. and Evans, A., Practical Legal Skills, 3rd edition, 2007

Stuesser, L., An Introduction to Advocacy, 2010

Negotiation Essentials

In a negotiation law students act as solicitors representing their client's interests in a dispute. Each team (consisting of two law students as solicitors) is given instructions by their clients, as well as facts relevant to their side of the dispute. The purpose is not necessarily settlement of the dispute. Solicitors discuss the legal issues and determine whether any proposed agreement between the parties is suitable to their client's needs.

Related to, but different from 'negotiation', is 'mediation' and 'arbitration'.

A mediation is an arranged meeting of parties to a dispute, with a mediator. The mediator is an independent, impartial and trained third party whose role is to facilitate discussion between the parties, and assist the parties in reaching a resolution to their dispute by defining the issues, and exploring possible avenues of settlement.

Arbitration is a more formal proceeding than mediation, and usually less formal than a court hearing. An arbitrator is an independent third party who is given the authority to make a binding decision as to the dispute in issue before the tribunal. An arbitral hearing is adversarial and parties to the arbitration may be represented by legal counsel.

Recommended Books on Mediation, Arbitration and Negotiation Skills

Bobette Wolski, Skills, Ethics and Values for Legal Practice (2nd Edition), 2008.

Ruth Charlton and Micheline Dewdney, The Mediator's Handbook (2nd Edition), LawBook Co, 2004.

Ross Hyams, Susan Campbell and Adrian Evans, Practical Legal Skills, Oxford University Press, 2005.

"Preparing for Mediation" in Mediation - A guide for Victorian Solicitors, Law Institute of Victoria, 1995, ch.6.

Laurence Boulle, "The functions of legal representatives" in Mediation, Principles Process Practice, Butterworths, 1996 pp l4l-l47.

Essential Negotiation Skills Links

The Australian Law Students' Society - Competitions
Useful and practical advice in the 'beginners guide to Mediation'

Australian mediation video
An Australian mediation video with two mediators – an explanation of mediation & the steps of mediation.

Witness Examination Skills

In Witness Examination, advocates for both the prosecution and the accused obtain relevant and admissible evidence from the witness that will be called in support of their case. This is known as examination-in-chief. Following examination-in-chief opposing legal representatives cross-examine that witness in attempt to undermine the veracity and plausibility of the account given by the witness in examination in chief.

There will finally be an opportunity for the party calling the witness to re-examine the witness over matters that have arisen in the course of cross examination. A witness examination is just a 'snapshot' of the questioning part of a trial.

Video Clips on Witness Examinations

There are some really excellent examples of Witness Examinations (as well as some really bad ones) available on YouTube.

Example highlight for fun:
An extract from the movie Witness for the Prosecution (1957) - Mock Trial Cross Examination (with a Hollywood Spin)

Conduct your own search with the keywords "witness court examination" or from the above videos, view what is in the related box area.

Recommended Books for Witness Examination

Wolski, B., Skills, Ethics and Values for Legal Practice, Thomsons Lawbook Co, 2nd edition, 2008

Hyams, R., Campbell, S. and Evans, A., Practical Legal Skills, 3rd edition, 2007

Essential Witness Examination Skills Links

The Queensland Supreme and District Courts Bench Book
A huge amount of practical advice for examining witnesses (as well as every other aspect of trial procedure) by the Supreme Court of Queensland

The Magistrates Court of WA Cross Examination by Accused Fact Sheet 42
A handy fact sheet with plain English information on cross-examination techniques, written by the Department of the Attorney General, Government of Western Australia

The University of Queensland School of Law Witness Examination Guidelines
Excellent Witness Examination Guidelines prepared by the University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law

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