By Taylor Chanter Trainee Solicitor
As part of the training requirements for trainee solicitors I am currently completing the Professional Skills Course at the University of Central Lancashire alongside my fellow Cartmell Shepherd trainees Andrew, Emma and Lydia. For the first few sessions we have been developing our advocacy skills in both a criminal and civil setting. In order to practice the skills that we developed in the first advocacy key skills session we all took part in a mock criminal trial. The defendant was on trial for theft and we had to act for either the prosecution or the defence as an advocate or a witness.
I acted as an advocate for the prosecution and used the advocacy skills that I had learnt to conduct an examination in chief of a prosecution witness. Andrew, Emma and Lydia all acted for the defence. Andrew conducted the examination in chief of the defendant, Emma conducted a cross examination of a prosecution witness and Lydia played the role of one of the defence witnesses. The different roles helped us to understand how the rules of evidence apply in a court room setting and the importance of asking the right questions so that you can get the most out of a witness. It also became clear very quickly that the witness can respond in a way that you do not always anticipate and that you always need to be prepared to think on your feet.
As well as carrying out our own roles, watching the rest of the trial was also really helpful for our development as it allowed us to see the strengths and weaknesses in other people’s advocacy styles. This enabled us to see what did and did not work well. All four of us took something away from the day. Reflecting on the day, Emma said that “the day showed me how the court procedure worked and how to cross examine a witness effectively”. Lydia also agreed that the day helped her to develop her advocacy skills further and said “I found the day really interesting. It taught me about effective questioning techniques” and Andrew said that “the criminal trial was a great experience to be a part of. I got the chance to deliver examination in chief to the defence witness. In doing so I had to communicate coherently in a court room environment and adapt my questions in response to how the trial was going”.
Overall, the day was very useful in helping us to develop our advocacy skills. The day definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and I developed confidence in a court environment. It was great to take part in a trial in a mock courtroom as you really got a good feel for how the courts are run and the correct etiquette to abide by. This experience was enhanced by the opportunity to also dress in the appropriate court attire so that we could really feel and look the part. We are all looking forward to day 3 of the advocacy course next Friday where we will be taking part in a civil trial focusing on a personal injury claim arising from a road traffic accident.