Law team prepares to take on world

A Gold Coast student university team has used the summer holidays to gear up for a prestigious international law school competition.

While the majority of university students enjoyed a hard-earned break, Griffith Law School students Tenelle May and Nathan Docker  worked with expert coach Professor Jeff Giddings in preparation for April’s Brown-Mosten International Client Counselling Competition in Scotland.

It is the first time that a Gold Coast combination will represent Griffith Law School at the competition, to be hosted by the University of Glasgow, where the theme will be murder.

Professor Giddings has previously coached Griffith teams for the same competition in 1997, 98, 99, 2005 and 2009.

The fifth-year law students won their way through to the University of Glasgow competition by defeating competition from law schools in Australia and New Zealand.

In the Australian Law Student Association’s annual conference the Griffith team was edged out in the grand final by a team from Victoria University in New Zealand. As the highest ranked Australian law school team, Tenelle and Nathan booked their place in Glasgow.

The competition required students to give legal advice to previously unknown and far from typical clients, ranging from the most sophisticated to the most obnoxious, from the vague to the grief-stricken.

Each client interview is a simulated initial consultation between a team of two lawyers and a new client. “You have to go in with an open mind,” Nathan says.

“Each interview provides us with valuable experience on efficiently asking legally relevant questions and interacting professionally with extreme type of clients that we may encounter as future legal practitioners.”

The pairing is given 30 minutes to gather as much relevant information as they can about the client and the situation before advising on the most appropriate next legal step.

“We invite the client to start from the beginning and to give us as much information as possible,” Tenelle says. “Sometimes people are hesitant about disclosing certain information and hold back on sharing crucial details. Our job is often to uncover those secrets.”

With an eye on the clock, Tenelle and Nathan strive to gain an accurate understanding of the situation, while simultaneously connecting with the client.

“We have different approaches to gaining control of the client,” Nathan says. “I have a stern approach and ask numerous questions while Tenelle is gentler and interjects less frequently but with considered questions.

A client never leaves an interview with team Griffith without being aware of their role in the process and their responsibilities which are important,” Nathan says. “We’re in the passenger seat, but they are steering.”