Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
Last Saturday, the Faculty of Law hosted the finals of the International Client Consultation Competition (ICCC), in which teams of law students from all over the world tried to best one another during simulations of legal counsel. The pairs were confronted with actors playing prospective clients in need of legal services, and it was up to the students to achieve a good rapport with the clients and establish the legal issues in the cases. The theme: ethics.
“I do have to apologise on behalf of, er, men.” The male half of the Jamaican team is only somewhat successful in putting his clients, two women scorned by a malicious divorce lawyer, at ease, but he manages to elicit the biggest audience laugh of the day, even though his hands are shaking with nerves. In the final round, the three best pairs (New Zealand, Jamaica and Australia) are confronted with two women who have both engaged in an intimate relationship with the lawyer handling their respective divorces. “He was such a good listener”, one of them laments. Now that they have found out about his duplicity, they are looking to take legal action.
Tom Dopstadt, a UM student assisting with the organisation of the event, explains beforehand: “You have to figure out the problem by using your knowledge of the law, your analytical skills and some empathy. Obviously, the different national legal systems are taken into account.” Along with fact-finding, establishing a good relationship with the clients is key. Jantien Dekkers, who represented UM in an earlier competition in Las Vegas, is a captive audience member: “That was really bad”, she asserts after seeing the consultation by the New Zealand team. “You don’t just send away one of the clients.” Dekkers especially appreciates the improvisational aspect of the competition: “You get surprises; you suddenly have this case, a puzzle to solve in front an audience, and you really have to make split-second decisions and have answers right away.” She rates the Australian performance as the best she’s seen. The panel of judges has a different opinion, however: victory is awarded to the Jamaicans, who are especially commended for the relationship they managed to establish with the clients, even up to the point of one of the team members stepping down from the case to accommodate their feelings. “Sensitivity to clients’ needs is most important, even before legal issues”, one of the judges states. “Your consultation was like feeling at home.”