Law students try out skills

Cayman hosts seven other schools

Maybe this is where trial lawyers are born.

In a real courtroom, standing before a panel of formidable judges, relying on research notes and speaking skills to make critical points, flanked by opponents presenting counter-arguments.

The experience could be scary; it could also be exhilarating.

Law students from Texas, Florida, Trinidad, Bahamas, Jamaica and Cayman got a taste of what it is like to have one’s efforts evaluated by experts when they appeared in Court Six on Friday, 11 March, before Justice Charles Quin, who presided with Senior Crown Counsels Reshma Sharma and Trevor Ward.

The 26 students were divided into five teams, each with a legal problem to explore. After the students made their submissions, they were asked some hardball questions.

To a team applying for judicial review, Ms Sharma asked if alternative remedies had been exhausted. Mr. Ward asked if the test of probable consequence would be objective or subjective. Extemporaneous answers showed varying levels of knowledge and composure. When Justice Quin asked a question, the initial response was, “May I confer with my colleagues?”

Another team tackled the topical question of British overseas territory citizenship for the child of a Caymanian father and non-Caymanian mother.

The issue of personal privacy arose in an examination of a Complaints Commissioner’s request for phone records from a telecommunications service provider. Another team argued an appeal against conviction for murder on the basis of withdrawal from a joint enterprise.

The scenario was a chilling reminder of a recent local case. Judges congratulated students on their research and presentation. One student was praised because, “You cited the principles and applied them to the facts.”

Justice Quin provided a useful tip, suggesting they listen to a judge’s question and digest it before answering. “The question answered was not always the question asked,” he noted. Another practical suggestion was to keep notes in a format that would be useful – not written so small that they were difficult to read.

The last team made a “no case” submission on behalf of a defendant charged with possession and transfer of criminal property. Justice Quin brought laughter to the audience when he noted that the first speaker had asked for the hypothetical jury to be excused, but then argued with a passion more typically reserved for presentations to a jury. Mr. Ward congratulated students for not being slaves to their notes. He said they were able to articulate their arguments more forcefully because they were familiar with their material.

The four-hour exercise was organised under the auspices of Mitchell Davies, director of legal studies at the Cayman Islands Law School.

He explained that Cayman was hosting a Caribbean Law Clinic, an event that takes place every six months at different schools under the American Caribbean Law Initiative.

“Clinics require students to collaborate, which encourages team-building and professional interaction with individuals they have not previously met,” he pointed out. “Students also have the opportunity to develop their advocacy skills.”

Participants from Cayman were Lisa Donalds and Adrian Davey.

Other students were from Eugene Dupuch Law School, Nassau, Bahamas; Hugh Wooding Law School, St. Augustine, Trinidad; Norman Manley Law School, Kingston, Jamaica; Thurgood Marshall Law School, Houston, Texas; Florida Coastal, Nova Southeastern University and Stetson University Law Schools, all in Florida.