Waikato students win national law competition

7 September 2018

Waikato law students Sarah Ather and Jenn Tng.

Two University of Waikato students won the New Zealand Law Students’ Association Client Interviewing Finals in Christchurch last weekend, and will head to Dublin to represent New Zealand at the world finals next year.

Third-year Law students Sarah Ather and Jenn Tng entered the competition to gain experience, but their attention to detail, ability to read a situation and give sound legal advice set them apart from the top law students from around New Zealand.

“When they announced we were the winners, I couldn’t believe it, so I just started clapping,” Jenn says. “It took me a while to realise that they had called our names!”

At the national competition, students were tasked with interviewing a pretend client about a legal problem. Their job was to extract as much information from the client as possible and then give them legal advice on the spot. With only 25 minutes to complete the task, a lot of quick thinking was required.

“A major part of it is making the client feel as comfortable as possible,” Sarah says. “Sometimes you get clients who are reserved and reluctant to talk to lawyers – just like you would in the real world. It’s important to read the situation, react to the client’s body language and ask specific questions to extract information. Little details can make a big difference!”

Having worked together since their first year at university, Sarah and Jenn know how to work as a team. Jenn does an introduction, both question the client, and Sarah concludes with some legal options.

The pair entered the competition to gain experience, but ended up taking the national title.

“We work so well together because we know how to read each other,” Jenn says. “We know exactly when we should step in, help each other out, or give each other space. If one of us is faltering, the other one will always jump in.”

The pair credit their success to the support they received from their fellow students, academics, judges, friends and family.

“We had an amazing supportive team from Waikato – whenever we doubted ourselves, we always had Waikato students and staff telling us we could do it,” Jenn says.

“Our families helped us a lot too,” Sarah says. “My mum sent us a food stash to make sure we were well-fed throughout the competition. We practised interviewing our dads, our friends and other senior law students, and they all gave us feedback. Our coach, Andrew Hong, taught us so much and boosted our confidence as well.”

The pair will represent New Zealand at the Brown-Mosten International Client Consultation Competition next year, being held in Dublin, Ireland.

Both students have an interest in international law and are looking forward to gaining more practical experience in their chosen fields. Jenn is aiming to practice in the area of international criminal law or peace treaties. Sarah wants to focus on international disputes and one day hopes to work towards resolving armed conflict in the Middle East.

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