Picture this:

A dark, gloomy Melbourne evening, roaring crowds, a marble-constructed battle arena and a fierce, burning desire to succeed within the hearts of those chosen to represent the Burwood and Geelong Campuses in the Deakin Law Students’ Society Client Interview Competition Grand Final.

The scene was set, the brief was understood and the client was ready to be interviewed.

Round 1, Burwood.

“Hi there, how are you? Please, take a seat.”

The Burwood team, consisting of the infamous Ati Damodaran and Vernon Singh, begun. A polite, comforting and reassuring setting was established and the client seemed at ease with the interview.  First, a quick explanation of the costs structure.

“This first consultation is free, after this, $300 an hour, but this will all be explained in more detail if you choose to retain us and take this matter further.” The client agreed to these costs.

Next, the facts. “Let’s start from the top, what brings you here today? Remember, although you may think that some things are not as important as others, it is important for us and in your best interest to tell us everything that has occurred.” The judges liked this, and so did the client. What followed was a flurry of information about a case of insider trading. The client strongly held a position of innocence and a fear of being outlawed based on legislation that was ‘so stupid.’

15 minutes passed. The client had painstakingly delivered a recount of her events and she was clearly distressed.  It was the task of the Burwood Boys to give her the comfort and reassurance that ‘yes, yes, we will get to the bottom of this ma’am.’

Future directions were made, glances were exchanged, and then… DING DING DING, time was up.

“Thank you for meeting with us today, we will conduct some initial research and contact you via email and telephone when we can ascertain the nest steps for your matter.”

“Thank you very much, I want this to be over as quick as possible, I hate these silly insider trading laws.”

“Yes, we understand and we will do everything we can to ensure we can deliver you the best outcome”.

Just like that, the Burwood team left the room. Thunderous claps filled the halls of the Clayton Utz conference rooms and then it was time for round two.

Round 2, Geelong

As everyone sat down and reflected on what a magnificent display of professionalism they had just witnessed the door leading into the room began to creak. Silence filled the four walls as onlookers watched in awe as the powerhouse that is the Geelong team, Madeline McDonald and Roxana Tabari, entered the room. They walked over to the client, faced her, and like the boys, introduced themselves.

“Hi there, how are you going? Please, take a seat.”

The client responded much the same, however, they then offered her a cool glass of top tier firm water, the client and the judges smiled – this was a great start.

They continued to ask a similar set of questions, with a similar intent; discover all the material facts and try to ascertain the best course of action. Questions were asked but the client proved to be difficult, she wasn’t going to let these lawyers know all the details – they had to work for it, and they sure did.

“I’m being done because ASIC thinks I’m insider trading.”

“Please, detail to us the reasons for this – what permits ASIC to claim that this is what has occurred?”

“I dunno, it’s all stupid, all the trading laws are…and my brother well, he’s gonna throw me under the bus.”

The Geelong team surely thought, “We have a lot of work to do.”

The 15-minute mark hit and the battle (the nicest, most comforting and informative battle between future lawyers) was still in full swing. A discussion had begun about the intricacies of the client’s issues and there was no sign of slowing down. The judges loved this, they were on the edge of their thrones, watching intently as complex legal jargon was explained in colour-coded lay-mans terms for the client (a great skill to have in the client interview arena, and in life as a lawyer).

DING DING DING – 20 minutes was up, the client interview concluded on great terms and it was now time for the judges to deliberate.

The Verdict

What felt like hours, days, weeks was only mere minutes as the judges left the arena to consult each scoresheet and come to a final decision. The audience unsettled, the competitors uneasy and the anticipation growing high. The judges reentered the room and took a seat.

“We have made our decision.”

The audience silenced as feedback was given, and can be summarised below:

What to Do in a Client Interview Competition

  • Always begin with a kind greeting and gesture
  • Always great to outline the payment structure for the client so they understand how the process works
  • Be nice, comforting and calming
  • Ask them to guide you through the scenario
  • Ask them follow up questions, they won’t always tell you everything on the first round!
  • Recap, continue to ask them if there is anything else they would like to disclose
  • Finalise with a nice gesture, and explain the next steps

What NOT to Do in a Client Interview Competition

  • Be domineering or condescending
  • Force information
  • Regurgitate legal jargon or terms you have read in a law textbook, they are a client with presumably no legal knowledge, they don’t know what nemo dat is
  • Remember, you are a legal practitioner you need to stay impartial! The client may hate the law but you should not agree with this, you an officer of the law and staying objective is key!

The above was discussed and then came time for the verdict.

The winner…of the client interview grand final…is…GEELONG!

Claps and calls of applause filled the auditorium, a great victory by the Geelong team and the utmost sportsmanship demonstrated by the Burwood team.

In the words of the judges, “Well, we pretty much had the same score for both and there was only a point or so difference. Both teams should be extremely proud, it was a fantastic display of the calibre of the Deakin cohort. Congratulations to both teams.”

And that was that. Another client interview competition was over! What was witnessed on that night was nothing short of a great, supportive and fun atmosphere. Both teams performed fantastically even though, for some, it was their first time. The DLSS strives to ensure that every student has the opportunity to compete, become involved and understand how each competition works without feeling overwhelmed. We are here to make sure that nights like this continue to happen throughout the academic year, and students are given the best chance to fulfil their potential.

If reading this account of the magnificent competition made you interested

So, reading this account I presume you are jealous you couldn’t make it to the ‘arena’, or, you wish you had a chance at taking centre stage for another DLSS event! Do not fear, there is still time to compete this year!

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, and keep up to date with how you can become involved with the competition scene, a fantastic way to sharpen your lawyer skills, meet new people and polish that resume!

A big thank you to all involved; Clayton Utz for sponsoring and hosting this year’s event, the Competitions Teams for organising the entire competition, the competitors for putting on a great show and those who came and supported.

Last but not least, a big thank you to all the heat competitors also. The competitions team wholeheartedly agreed that the competition this year was nothing short of fierce and engaging. We are so excited to see you all at the next competition heats!

On behalf of the DLSS, we look forward to the next battle and hope to see you there!

Written by:

Beau Arnfield

Competitions Officer