Notts Students Swap Lectures For Law Office

Students from Nottingham Trent University (NTU) traded the lecture theatre for a virtual legal practice as part of the law school’s annual Client Interviewing Competition.

Nottingham Trent Client Interviewing Competition
Oliver Maxwell

16 entrants competing in pairs battled it out over three rounds before competing in the final, where the students had 30 minutes to provide a client with practical and legal advice in the presence of three judges – Senior Associate and Solicitor, Oliver Maxwell, from our Dispute Resolution team, and Nottingham Trent University lecturer, Megan Shirley, and pastoral advisor, Julie Higginbottom.

This year, the competition – which was open to undergraduate and postgraduate students – took place online due to the social distancing restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, so the entrants had the additional challenge of working in pairs from different locations to interview and advise their clients.

Oliver Maxwell said:

“The interviewing competition provides students with the experience of meeting and interviewing clients to provide legal and practical solutions to their problems. It also helps in improving their confidence when public speaking and problem solving.

“When Megan got in contact with me asking if I’d like to be a guest judge, I said yes straight away. When you are studying and starting your career in law, it’s important there are people from the profession showing a genuine interest in supporting you. When I had similar experiences at university, it was exciting to see a barrister or a practitioner on the panel.

“From experience to practise, interviewing, in particular, is a skill you learn on the job. It’s like driving – you know the basics, but you don’t truly start learning until you’re out on the road alone. Being able to support the next generation of lawyers to make sure they understand the basics and how these transfer into real-world situations, ultimately, makes the profession even better.”

The competition consisted of a two-hour training workshop and four rounds, which included different factual scenarios that allowed the students to test their approach to contractual law issues. Not only did the entrants advise on the legal situation, they had to acknowledge the emotional aspects of the scenario for the client, while formulating creative, “non-legal” options that could help resolve the situation.

Megan Shirley, who worked in our Dispute Resolution team for more than six years before becoming a lecturer at NTU, said:

“Students compete in pairs to give them the opportunity to reflect upon and develop team-working relationships in a high-pressure situation. As part of the judging criteria, we were looking at whether the students built a rapport with their clients and identified the key issues.”

Nottingham Trent Client Interviewing Competition
Joreen Richardson and Becky Hankin

Second year LLB students, Joreen Richardson and Becky Hankin, were crowned winners and will now go on to represent NTU at the National Client Interviewing Competition this year.

Megan added:

“All the judges were extremely impressed by Joreen and Becky’s level of their performance and praised their friendly professionalism. I’m looking forward to seeing them represent NTU at the national competition, which will provide them with an excellent experience.”