Best Advocate Prize Winner, Zofia Kaluza from Aylesbury High School in Aylesbury, reflects on her experience in the article below:
On 27th and 28th April I was invited to attend the Oxford Law Faculty and Maitland Chambers Criminal Mock Trial. The event was extremely informative and allowed me to meet new people my age who also share a keen interest in law. It was also a great opportunity for me to portray my own skills and eagerness towards the subject. At the event I had the chance to talk to barristers and first year law students from the university which was very valuable because they answered all questions I had that I wouldn’t have been able to have answered otherwise about studying law at the University of Oxford. Furthermore, the Trial allowed me to explore the role of a barrister. Working alongside Maitland Chambers for the day gave me the ultimate experience because of the barristers passing on their knowledge and giving constructive feedback at the end of the mock trial.
On the Friday I arrived at the Faculty of Law and got to know the other participants. We experienced a staged robbery which led onto the first activity of the event; a law masterclass presented by a criminal law tutor from the university. During the law masterclass, I learnt the difference between theft and robbery and the different cases that helped shape what we now define as theft and robbery. As well as this, we engaged in discussions on the topic, questioning and interpreting the language used in law. We then headed to the conference room for a Skype call with a London barrister and Oxford law alumna who introduced the subject of procedural law and answered any questions we had about court trials and different roles. It was particularly interesting and effective to hear this information from a practicing barrister as she spoke from experience which really helped me gain an insight to the subject.
The next day I took part in advocacy training led by Maitland Chambers which was thoroughly informative and deepened my knowledge on how the barrister’s job is split up and the different aspects to a court hearing focusing on the five stages; opening speeches, examination in chief, cross-examination, re-examination and closing speeches. We were then introduced to the criminal case we were going to work on with the defendant accused of committing robbery. Next, we split into two groups; the defence and prosecution, and further split up the different roles in the mock trial. Throughout the course of the day we all worked together to prepare our cases evaluating the reliability of the witness statements and picking out the flaws from our own witness statements so that we could insulate them in examination in chief.
The preparation and mock trial were hugely valuable as they gave me a real insight into how a case is prepared and the challenging nature of presenting what you have prepared effectively in the trial. I took on the role of the prosecution’s opening speech and with thought and guidance from both the students and Maitland Chambers I wrote the speech. Writing the speech allowed me to realise the importance of being the first spokesperson in a case and incorporating everything you will discuss during the trial within a clear structure. Without a doubt the team work and analysis skills, I learnt during the event have proven useful when working on criminal law cases. Not only did I have a lot of fun and learn more about the law surrounding theft and robbery and the job of a barrister, my hard work and achievement was recognised and I was delighted to have been awarded the overall prize for best advocacy skills. Thanks to this award I will be attending a one day mini-pupillage at Maitland Chambers in the summer.