Law students win trial advocacy competition
By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer
Bryan Guertin (Law’14) and Ben Snow (Law’14) spent more than three months getting ready for the annual trial advocacy competition between six Ontario law schools. As they entered the courtroom last month with the Arnup Cup on the line, though, they understood their preparations could be rendered meaningless as soon as the first witness took the stand.
“I think the biggest challenge of the competition is the inability to be completely prepared,” says Mr. Snow. “Although we did run-throughs with all of these different witnesses, we didn’t know what the witnesses were going to do on the day of the trial. Also, we didn’t know what our opponents were going to do.
“So it was all about improvising, thinking on our feet, and adjusting our strategy.”
The Queen’s teams proved up to the challenge, bringing back the Arnup Cup to Macdonald Hall for the first time in two years. Tony Paciocco (Law’15), the team’s student coach, was impressed by how quickly Mr. Guertin and Mr. Snow raised objections during the trial.
“It’s difficult when you are hearing evidence come out to respond immediately and spontaneously. But both of them did a thorough job and I think they really impressed the judges,” he says. “I know they caught their opponents with their hands in their pockets at certain points, unsure of what to do.”
The team received information about the case in October and was told it would represent the Crown at the trial. Leading up to the competition, Mr. Snow and Mr. Guertin prepared the Crown’s case by outlining questions to ask the witnesses and preparing their exhibits. A month out from the competition, they did complete run-throughs of the trial and practiced five or six times a week.
Fellow students helped immensely with the team’s preparation, volunteering their time as witnesses and evaluators. The participants also drew on the feedback and expertise of numerous volunteers, including Robert Goddard (Law’90), the team’s faculty advisor and staff lawyer with Queen’s Law Correctional Law Project, and Joseph Dart (Law’05), a lawyer at Viner, Kennedy, Frederick, Allan and Tobias in Kingston and a former assistant Crown attorney. Local criminal defence lawyer Michael Mandelcorn (Law’85) did a run-through with the team, and local Crown attorney Laurie Lacelle (Law’96) acted as a judge during one practice and offered advocacy advice to the students. Faculty of Law staff member and theatrical performer Megan Hamilton counselled the team on vocal delivery.
Mr. Guertin says the Arnup Cup competition serves as an invaluable experience as they train to become lawyers.
“The feedback you get from lawyers and students really helps with your public speaking and preparation skills,” says Mr. Guertin. “In terms of criminal advocacy, the competition is incredible. Once we become lawyers, we will never have months to practice a case and have people critique us and higher-ups say you should take this approach. And no one’s life is on the line here; no one is going to jail so that takes some of the pressure off.”
The Queen’s team will now vie for the Sopinka Cup at the national trial advocacy competition later this month in Ottawa. The Queen’s team of Sabrina Goldfarb (Law’14) and Natalie Johnson (Law’14) participated in that competition last year after finishing second at the Arnup Cup.
In addition to the Arnup Cup win, students in Queen’s Law have earned two top-three finishes in other moot competitions so far this year. Queen’s Law placed second in the annual Mathews Dinsdale & Clark Canadian Labour Arbitration Moot, and third at the Canadian Client Consultation Competition.