Algonquin’s paralegal students argued their way to victory in a mock trial competition held at Durham College on March 11 and 12.
The two-day competition consisted of three trials where teams from colleges across Ontario were challenged to prepare and present a Small Claims Court trial from start to finish. The teams were judged based on the content of their opening statements, closing arguments, examinations and cross-examinations and their advocacy skills.
Last year, the Algonquin competitors made it to the semi-finals before they were eliminated. This year, they emerged victorious, but the team says their win did not come easily.
“This was definitely a test of people’s mettle,” said Adam Jakab, team member and first year paralegal student. “To stand up in front of a real judge made it clear who was really made for this.”
The team practiced once a week for five weeks, with three practices in the week leading up to the competition. A lot of work and dedication went into this competition, all on top of a full course load.
According to the team, the extra work was tiring but well worth the effort.
“It was somewhat taxing,” said team member Heather Nellis. “But we all wanted to be there. We all wanted to win, so we made sacrifices.”
Francine Roach, who gave the team feedback, provided advocacy sessions last fall and attended the competition, said the team showed a tremendous amount of teamwork.
“We were the cheering squad,” she said, grinning. “They knew their cases inside and out, and Sean Bawden dedicated a lot of time to coaching.”
Bawden, who works for a local law firm, has been coaching the team every year since Durham began hosting the competition three years ago. He took great pride in the teamwork Algonquin’s entry showed at the competition. He said the way they supported one another really helped secure their victory and that they “pulled it together very well.”
All members of the team, in turn, had many nice things to say about their coach. They said Bawden was part of the team and they were grateful for his positivity and encouragement while they prepared for the competition.
“We brought ideas to him, he hit it with his magic and it all somehow came out more polished,” said Jakab.
Word spread fast about the team’s victory through the school. Dave Donaldson, dean of Algonquin’s school of business, was also proud of the team.
“Competitions with other colleges are a great way for our students to challenge themselves against their peers and this is an initiative that we strongly support,” Donaldson said. “It’s always nice to win – icing on the cake – but most students feel the competition itself is the lifelong experience.”
The team agreed that the competition had academic value and provided hands-on experience that they would not have gotten otherwise.
“It’s a great experiential learning opportunity for the students,” said Roach. “They were amazing. They put a lot of work into this competition and it showed.”
The students were grateful not only for the win, but for the opportunities the competition has given them.
“We really saw how far we’d come since our first day,” said Nellis. “It was rewarding to see all our hard work come to fruition. I feel like we’re going into our advocacy class with the upper hand on everyone else,” she added with a laugh.
For some, the competition was also a source of affirmation.
“It solidified for me that I was in the field of study I know I want to be in,” said team member Kevin Hamilton.
Algonquin will participate in the competition again next year. Although most of the current team members will have graduated by then, they all say they’d do it again if they could. As for Bawden, he said he hopes to return as coach again next year.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said, “but it’s tempting to want to defend the title again.”