Two University of Waikato fourth-year law students were in Dublin last month where their focus was theft.
Sarah Ather and Jenn Tng were New Zealand university representatives at the Brown-Mosten International Client Consultation Competition, https://www.brownmosten.com/2019-competition.html, pitting themselves against 19 other student teams from all over the world, all hosted by the Law Society of Ireland.
They arrived knowing they would be interviewing ‘clients’, whether victims or perpetrators (or sometimes both) about theft in its many forms, including aggravated robbery, blackmail, receiving, obtaining by deceit and many aspects of fraud.
Sarah says before they left New Zealand they worked with Te Piringa Faculty of Law staff and legal practitioners to understand as much about theft as they could, and they practised their interviewing techniques with drama students, in particular their friend Eden Chappell, who would play all sorts of characters in mock interview situations. A week before traveling to Ireland, they received a series of memos that gave a vague outline of each round in the competition.
“It wasn’t so much about understanding the laws around theft, though that was part of it,” says Jenn. “It was about using your interviewing skills with the client, being able to read their emotions, getting the information you wanted and coming up with practical, ethical solutions and creative options for their situation.”
They travelled to Ireland with one of their lecturers Andrew Hong, and before departing spent time with Law Dean Associate Professor Wayne Rumbles and practising lawyer and Faculty lecturer Terry Singh who answered “countless emails and hundreds of questions”.
Sarah says they wanted to go into the competition knowing they’d done everything they could to perform at the top of their game, knowing they couldn’t be more prepared. “So when we got to Dublin we practised with Andrew, addressing every memo and developing different scenarios for each. We did two or three rounds a day. It was intense. At breakfast lunch and dinner, it was all we talked about.”
They received plenty of long-distance encouragement, by way of messages from Faculty of Law staff and students.
Sarah and Jenn made it to the semi-finals, beaten by the USA who went on to win the final. It was the first time since 2002 that the University of Waikato had qualified for the international competition, and Sarah and Jenn hope they’ve set a new precedent.
“It was such a worthwhile experience,” Jenn says. “We were competitive in the rounds, but away from the competition everyone was friendly, there was no ill will or hostility and we’re still in touch with many of the other teams.” Their rivals came from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, England and Wales, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Malaysia, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and USA.
The New Zealand Law Foundation paid for Sarah and Jenn’s trip, and Selene Mize from the University of Otago who sits on the international client interviewing board provided valuable tips as the pair prepared for the event.
Back in Hamilton, Jenn and Sarah have been playing catch-up as they settle back into their university study. Both are doing conjoint degrees; Jenn working towards a Bachelor of Business Analysis majoring in Accounting to go with her law degree, while Sarah is completing a Bachelor of Social Sciences majoring in Political Science (International Relations), which will combine nicely with her preference for international law. She’s already had an internship with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and has a summer law clerk position lined up for the end of this year.