There were two cases before retired Justice Kipling Douglas for the day in Courtroom 4, and both were complicated issues dealing with human rights. The first involved allegations of abuse in a children’s home. The second, a test of rights to distribute religious materials in a public place.
The trials took half a day each, but the preparations had taken weeks. “The level of preparation on their part was pretty significant,” said Nicole D’Heer Watson with the Campbells law firm. But the 10 people arguing the cases were not lawyers from Campbells; they were students from St. Ignatius.
The students, all 15 to 17 years old, are part of the A-Level law program at the Catholic school. The mock trials, called “moots,” gave students the opportunity to research the law and argue their cases in a real courtroom before a real, if retired, justice. They even donned the official black robes of barristers.
Campbells sponsors the law program at St. Ignatius, and attorneys help students learn just what it means to become a lawyer.
“We decided to put the students to the test this year,” said Alistair Walters, a Campbells partner. “We worked with the program instructors to add a moot competition to the curriculum in an effort to provide the students with the added experience of preparing and participating in a genuine courtroom mock trail.”
James Austin-Smith, a Campbells attorney who helped with the program, said, “I was incredibly impressed with the students’ understanding of the difficult issues presented to them and with their ability to conduct themselves with such confidence and competency in an actual courtroom environment, which can sometimes be intimidating to a seasoned professional.”
“This competition provided the students with invaluable experience and was an incredible addition to the A-Level program. We are already looking forward to the next one,” said Rhian Minty, a lecturer at the Truman Bodden Law School. Ms. Watson said Campbells and St. Ignatius plan to host mock trials again next year. She said they may “roll it back a little” on the cases because the level of research and the legal arguments were closer to a university level.
“It was a lot more than we anticipated,” she said, adding that despite the high level of the cases, the students did an excellent job.