LawSoc members win Advocate of the Year competition regional heat

The University of Leeds Law Society (LawSoc) won first place in BPP’s Advocate of the Year competition in the Northeast/Yorkshire regional heat.

The Advocate of the Year competition regional heat, an annual national mock trial event organised by BPP University Law School, took place online last November. This renowned competition attracts undergraduate students from various disciplines studying at universities across England and Wales, providing them with a unique opportunity to develop their advocacy skills in a realistic courtroom setting. 

Participants are evaluated on a range of advocacy skills, including submission advocacy, examination-in-chief, cross-examination and client conference. The judging panel consists of law school tutors and external practitioners, all of whom are qualified lawyers with extensive trial experience. The competition involves real-life cases and witnesses, replicating the work at the junior Bar and offering invaluable practical experience to aspiring barristers. 

Millie O’Connell, LLB Law student and LawSoc’s Bar Careers Secretary, recently shared her insights following LawSoc’s team victory in the Northeast/Yorkshire regional heat. Millie expressed her excitement and surprise at their success, particularly given the strong competition from Durham University, saying, 

We were thrilled and pleasantly surprised to have won first place in the Northeast/Yorkshire region. We were up against strong competitors from Durham University and were very happy not only to have beaten them but to have been ranked as the strongest team in the whole region.

Millie, along with her teammate and LLB Law student, Hannah Amiri, decided to participate in BPP's Advocate of the Year competition to gain the practical experience essential for their future careers as barristers. As Millie explains, 

There is no better way to gain practical experience than mooting and mock trials. I was keen to develop my oral advocacy skills as well as client handling and interpersonal skills, and this competition provided a great opportunity to develop both in a professional environment.

One of the highlights for Millie was using submission advocacy to convince the judge that her client’s previous conviction should not be included as evidence in the trial. She says, 

I identified evidence as to why his previous conviction was irrelevant and dissimilar to the situation presented in the competition and argued against it being adduced in the trial.

However, the competition was not without its challenges. Millie recognises, 

The most challenging aspect was the preparation we had to undertake in the days leading up to the trial. Reading through the trial bundle, witness statements, and evidence, and selecting the relevant sections was time-consuming. We had to ensure we didn’t miss any key bits of information that the opposing team could use against us in court, and if we did find anything that wasn’t in our favour, we had to be creative in finding ways around it.

Reflecting on the experience, Millie emphasised the personal and academic growth she gained from participating in the competition, 

The competition definitely increased my confidence. Having gone into the competition with very little experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect or how the trial would run. I am very happy to have worked with Hannah to bring home the win for our region and am also proud of my own personal achievement of making it through to the national final at the Old Bailey in March 2024.

Millie also offered advice to students considering similar competitions in the future, stating, 

I would definitely encourage students to take part in competitions like this! Any examples of advocacy that you can add to your CV look really good on application forms, and they are also great to talk about in interviews. Despite being super nervous, which is totally normal, I actually really enjoyed the trial itself and it was interesting to hear the points that the members of the opposing team had to make and which bits of evidence they had selected to support their points.

Ben Anderton, LawSoc President, praised Millie and Hannah for their achievement, saying, 

Academic competitions are at the heart of the Law Society, so it is fantastic to have supported the success of Hannah and Millie in the regional Advocate of the Year competition! It is a competition that we have seen success in previously, so we are delighted that the team continued the legacy again this year.