Bora Laskin Faculty of Law students win mock trial against several other universities

Photo of Bora Laskin School of Law Moot Team

From left, Joanna Goldenberg, coach, with students Phaedra Olinyk, Nathan Wainwright, Amanda Gallo, and Austin Nix, along with Kimberley Gagan, coach, travelled to Toronto last weekend for the Arnup Cup.

February 15, 2019 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

Picture this.

Your law firm has been hired to defend a man charged with using a handgun to steal $20,000 from an ATM machine in a convenience store.

The man is in debt to the mob and had a $20,000 payment that was due, which gave him a motive. Physical evidence, including clothing and cigarettes containing the man’s DNA, linked him to the crime. But you believe your client was framed by the Crown’s witnesses, who had provided conflicting information to the police.

What would you say or do to defend this man?

Third-year students from Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law faced this challenge during the Arnup Cup moot – or mock – trial competition held at the Federal Courthouse in Toronto last weekend, sponsored by WeirFoulds and the Advocates’ Society.

For the first time, the Bora Laskin team placed first in the challenge against students from Queen’s, University of Ottawa, York, University of Toronto, Western, and Windsor.

Third-year students Amanda Gallo and Nathan Wainwright competed in the challenge.

“This competition was an incredible opportunity to run a full-length jury trial before a Superior Court judge,” Gallo said.

“The jurors were all members of The Advocates' Society, who organized the competition, and they provided us with really great feedback once the trial was over. Overall, it was an excellent opportunity to learn and grow as a young advocate,” she said. 

Gallo added that she learned the value of being flexible and not taking herself too seriously.

“Trials are live creatures and you can never predict with certainty what will happen. What you can control, however, is how you react to an unexpected situation. A little bit of calm and good humour can go a long way to minimizing stress.”

Wainwright said the team prepared for the moot as if it was a real case. “We worked hard and executed our trial plan from start to finish in an attempt to be persuasive to the jurors. Fortunately, it resonated with them, which led to a successful trial,” he said, adding that it gave students the experience of conducting a trial before a jury and the Superior Court judge.

“I learned many things, including how to control witnesses, deal with judges, be persuasive and follow courtroom procedure,” he said.

“What I call the ‘Lakehead Difference’ was displayed in spades in the moot. It was evident that the practical curriculum that Lakehead Law emphasizes more so than other law schools gave our team a foundation in oral advocacy skills that may have made the difference,” Wainwright added.

Gallo and Wainwright had help from their alternates, third-year students Phaedra Olinyk and Austin Nix, who kept them on their toes by preparing a case against them that was similar to the Crown’s case.

“I knew we had a strong team, but the fact that we beat out every single law school in Ontario – and Osgoode Hall even sent two teams – was truly amazing,” Olinyk said.

“My education at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law helped me prepare for this competition because the integrated practice curriculum provided me with the necessary skills to be able to advocate orally, but to also effectively prepare with my team.

“Throughout my time at Lakehead I have been given a legal education that is distinctive from other law schools in Ontario and Canada, because they focus on providing practical legal skills such as oral advocacy, running a trial, and the list goes on,” she said.

Nix said he and Olinyk competed against Gallo and Wainwright several times leading up to the moot, to help them prepare.

“I think the biggest lesson from this experience is that hard work pays off. The effort that you put in will reflect the reward you get out of it. And while this was a significant win for Lakehead at the provincial level, there is still much more work to be put in for the national competition,” he said.

As the preparation team, he and Olinyk partly based what the Crown might say and do on his experiences at his placement in the North Bay Crown Attorney’s office.

“The idea of thinking like a Crown attorney definitely contributed to the preparation of my case, which in turn, helped strengthen our team’s case,” he said.

Kim Gagan, Founding Director of Lakehead University’s Community Legal Services, and Joanna Goldenberg, one of the clinic’s Review Counsel, were the team’s coaches, which was fitting because they each have extensive criminal law advocacy experience.

Gagan said the students’ practice placements at legal offices in first term, coupled with Lakehead’s integrated practice curriculum, provides them with more “real life and hands on experiences” than law students from other universities usually receive.

“I like to think that gives us a great foundation for this type of competition,” she said.

The team will head to the national moot competition, called the Sopinka Cup, in Ottawa on March 15 and 16.  



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