Brighton University Law Blog

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Asking all the right questions; the University of Brighton Client Interviewing Competition 2015

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The fourth annual Gerard Maye Legal Client Interviewing Competition was recently held at the University of Brighton.

The theme, set by the Law Society was Family Partnerships. Two pairs of ‘solicitors’ Marlon Cameron and Debbie Thomas (postgraduate law students) and Chloe Chatton and Fionnuala Richardson (final year undergraduate law students), advised ‘client’ Alex Swetman on a fictitious yet real to life situation.

Prior to the competition, students took part in a series of workshops led by Law Lecturer Jeanette Ashton that covered a number of key techniques and interviewing practices.

Students also took the opportunity to quiz local guest Private Client solicitor, Sue Warwick on her extensive and insightful interviewing experiences. Patrick Kershaw, one of last year’s winners also came along to share his experiences of participating in the competition and gave the students lots of helpful tips.

Judging the proceedings were Gerard Maye (Criminal Defence solicitor) and John Searby (Civil Litigation solicitor), both from Gerard Maye Legal and former winner Patrick Kershaw. John heralded the fact that it is often extremely difficult to obtain the key information from clients one to one within his office yet the competitors had managed to do so in front of an audience!

Once again, the judges remarked on how impressed they had been with the quality of the interviewing and how well both pairs had done in building a rapport with their client, listening to his problem, asking insightful questions and providing sensible advice.

Gerard Maye commented, “The standard for the competition has reached a new high. Each year, we are seeing talented students battle it out for first place, putting the judges in a very difficult position. The skill set is outstanding right across the board. Individually, they show real promise as aspiring lawyers.”

In the end, Fionnuala Richardson and Chloe Chatton took the win and as well as receiving book tokens, now have the opportunity to undertake work experience with Gerard Maye Legal.

Fionnuala said “I found the experience really interesting as it provided huge insight into a significant aspect of a solicitor’s role along with gaining knowledge on interviewing skills and techniques in the pre-competition sessions with Jeanette.  I particularly enjoyed the personal aspect of client interviewing where we were able to understand the client, along with their goals, motives and desired outcomes of the session.”

Patrick Kershaw recalled his experience as a winner, saying, “Whilst Gerard Maye primarily specialises in criminal law, what I found so helpful in the conversations I had with Gerry during my work experience, was his keen insight into the legal sector as a whole. During my experience I was given interesting cases to read and everyone at the firm treated me like a full-time employee. John and Gerry gave excellent feedback as to where I might want to head next and it’s obvious that the firm have a genuine interest in opening the door to aspiring lawyers.”

Fionnuala and Chloe will now go on to represent the University of Brighton in the Law Society regional heats which will be hosted by the University of Brighton in February 2016.

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Stephen Breen • 11/12/2015


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