International Client Consultation Competition

14 September 2012

Julie-Ann McCaffrey and Kevin Gallagher recount their experiences competing in the International Client Consultation Competition hosted by the Law Society of Ireland in April 2012.

Kevin Gallagher, a member of the Employment law team at Worthingtons recounts his experiences representing Northern Ireland in the International Client Consultation Competition 2012.

The Louis M. Brown and Forrest S. Mosten International Client Consultation Competition (ICCC) took place in Dublin from 18 – 21 April, hosted by the Law Society of Ireland.

23 teams from throughout the world participated in the event. Northern Ireland was represented by Julie-Ann McCaffrey and Kevin Gallagher. Julie-Ann and Kevin qualified for the finals after competing against fellow trainees at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies and winning the National Finals held at the Law Society in January against teams from the University of Ulster Jordanstown, Queen’s University Belfast and The Graduate School of Professional Legal Education.  Admittedly, we were somewhat disappointed when we realised that the ICCC was being hosted by the Law Society of Ireland in Dublin. Previous teams representing Northern Ireland had travelled to exotic countries such as India and Hong Kong for the finals whilst we took a two-hour train journey to Dublin. However, we felt privileged to have made it to the finals and were determined to make the most of the experience.

Prior to the finals, our Coach and member of staff at IPLS, Mary Traynor, assisted our preparations for the competition. We also received guidance from the Director, Anne Fenton and advice from previous winners Conor Houston and Niall Hargan. The topic of the competition this year was ‘Employers and Employees’ and solicitors from our Employment Departments, Cleaver Fulton Rankin (Julie-Ann) and Worthingtons Solicitors Belfast(Kevin), provided helpful advice.

The Four Day competition was action packed. The first day we attended a Master Class on ‘Dealing with Vulnerable Clients’ and we learned some useful tips from the experts. In the evening there was a Welcome Reception and the draw for the competition, following which the Law Society hosted a Céilí which gave us the perfect opportunity to meet the other competitors and coaches and of course to show off our Irish dancing skills (or lack of)!

During each stage of the competition we had to interview a client in front of three judges. Round One of the competition began on Thursday morning and our client was an employer who had an issue with a pregnant employee. Although our interview had not been perfect, we received relatively positive feedback from the judges. Following Round One we were treated to a Walking Tour of Dublin that afternoon and a meal with the other competitors and of course, inevitably, a few drinks in Temple Bar. Round Two took place on Friday - our client was a teacher who had been threatened with disciplinary action for teaching theories contrary to the school curriculum and who sought advice on a potentially inappropriate relationship with a pupil. Before the evening entertainment commenced, the semi-finalists were announced. We were delighted to have been announced joint second out of the 23 teams. The eight other semi-finalists were from New Zealand, Cambodia, Scotland, India, Germany, Nigeria, Canada and China. We were informed that we were drawn to compete against New Zealand and India in our semi-final on Saturday morning. The semi-finalists were split into three groups with the highest scoring team from each group advancing to the final. We were grouped with New Zealand and India, who were both formidable opponents.

We had little time to worry about the competition that evening as the cultural night took place. This was the opportunity for each team to give a performance reflecting their culture to the other delegations. We were treated to a wealth of talent on stage which varied from Cambodian coconut dancing, to being taught Salsa dancing by the Puerto Ricans to participating in a carnival by the Dutch! We made and presented a video of highlights of NI culture and Julie-Ann got the crowd clapping to an Air and Reel on the Tin-whistle. On Saturday we took part in the semi-final. This time our client had been suffering from harassment in the workplace and had stolen money from the company she worked for in retaliation. Although this was a more complex issue, we had good rapport with our client and provided informative advice. Once each team had completed their semi-final, the finalists were announced. Unfortunately we did not win a place in the final - New Zealand scored highest in our group. They went on to win the competition overall with Germany and China coming joint second.

The Awards dinner was held in the Guinness Storehouse that evening. An amazing four days culminated in a terrific night where we learned how to pull a proper pint of Guinness, received gifts from the other teams and Kevin was put through his paces by the New Zealand winners when he took part in an unforgettable performance of the Hakka! Of course all good times come to an end but without a doubt the competition was a valuable experience for us both. The Law Society of Ireland did a fantastic job hosting the competition and we learned invaluable new skills. Even more importantly we met some wonderful people from all over the world whom we hope to remain in contact with for many years to come. We are very grateful to the Law Society for its support and to the support of our respective firms Cleaver Fulton Rankin and Worthingtons.

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