Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

Law student makes Times Advocacy final

7 October 2010 | Alex Greenwood

Second year LLB student Jane Gordois made the final shortlist in the Herbert Smith The Times Advocacy Competition 2010.

The Times competition, sponsored by international law firm Herbert Smith, invited students to write on the subject: Should Equality Laws Trump Freedom of Conscience?

Entrants had to submit a 400-word skeleton argument together with a link to a 90-second YouTube presentation that addressed one aspect of their argument to the competition in July this year.

Based on these entries, judges made a shortlist of six candidates and invited them to each make a ten-minute presentation at a finalists' event at the offices of Herbert Smith in London.

The judges were Mrs Justice Rafferty, the first woman to be Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, and the first female Chairman of the Bar Conference; Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty; Ben Summerskill, CEO of Stonewall and former Commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission; Professor Nigel Savage, CEO of the College of Law; Frances Gibb, Legal Editor of The Times; and Ian Gatt QC, founding member of Herbert Smith's Advocacy Unit.

The judges looked for originality of thought, clarity of expression and logicality of presentation.

Mature student Jane first learnt about the competition, now in its third year, in 2009 when our Taught Programmes Support Assistant: Learning Enhancement and Personal Development sent out an email publicising the event. Jane decided to keep an eye out for it in 2010. Her entry made the final shortlist, and she attended the finalists' event on 13 September.   

"It was a tough competition with some ferocious questioning from the judges," says Jane. "Although each presentation had to be ten minutes long, the barrage of questions meant each candidate was on their feet for, at least, thirty minutes."

Jane says that the panel of judges had decided to "up the ante" in 2010 so the difficult questioning was to give it an authentic 'Court of Appeal' flavour.

"Mrs Justice Rafferty gave me a particularly hard time about 'judicial bias' and Ben Summerskill got his teeth into my comment that philosophies about climate change were 'politically correct' ... and he wouldn’t let go!"

The finalists drew lots to decide the order of presentation.

"I drew sixth," Jane says, "I had over two-and-a-half hours of waiting in the 'side room' ... little bit nail-biting!"

Jane believes everyone should have a go.

"It was such a pleasure speaking with the judges after the competition; they were lovely and they made the time to speak to us all individually – a unique experience," she says.

"The competition will be running again next year for any students interested in advocacy – but entries should come with a warning - be prepared for some tough questions!"

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