Student experience: Reaching the semi-finals of a national advocacy competition

Kent Law LLB student Khaliq Martin was placed among the top 16 competitors in the inaugural 36 Group Advocacy Competition 2020 which attracted 287 entrants from across the UK

Khaliq said the experience of reaching the semi-finals was challenging but it has reaffirmed his zeal to pursue a career at the Bar of England and Wales. In this post, Khaliq reflects on his experience of competing against final-year law students, graduates, and BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) students in a national advocacy competition:

‘The Advocacy Competition was hosted by the 36 Group which is a multi-specialist set of barristers’​ chambers. The 36 Group held the Advocacy Competition as a means for final-year law students, recent LLB undergraduates, and those that were on or have completed the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) or BPTC to practice their oral advocacy skills through specific legal exercises.

‘During the first and second rounds, students were assessed on their ability to provide a three-minute plea in mitigation. The submission required participants to act on behalf of the defendant who plead guilty to an offence. However, using the facts, participants were asked to examine the aggravating/mitigating factors the defendant experienced to persuade the court to be lenient in their sentencing. In the semi-finals, students prepared a five-minute submission that sought to strike out a summary judgement that had been applied.

‘The experience allowed me to use skills I’ve enhanced during my time at Kent Law School such as drafting, persuasive writing and appropriate methods of structuring arguments. What was entirely new for me was the need to ascertain a functional understanding of the sentencing guidelines and the Civil Procedural Rules. I also had to learn the formalities that surrounded court proceedings and the language that advocates rely on when they make their submissions. Both the accuracy and delivery of your submission were determining factors for the judges.

‘While I didn’t make it to the top four in a bid to compete in the final round, I’m happy to have placed among the top 16 out of the 287 entrants that participated (5.5%). The feedback I’ve received stated my plea and mitigation was “highly polished and well-reasoned”, and that my performance was “very engaging and close to the standard that would be expected of a 2nd six pupil”.

‘For students interested in becoming a barrister I would recommend the experience. Mooting and public speaking can be nerve-racking. However, many students are already brave and bold in their approach as everyday oral advocates; whether it’s standing up for themselves or others. Depending on your intersection or identity, some students have practiced oral advocacy their entire lives. While the formalities take some getting used to; practicing and knowing the ins and outs of the matter makes for an easier performance.

‘I’m thankful for 36 Group and the insight that the experience provided. I would also like to thank Darren Weir who was an excellent support for me throughout the competition. As Kent’s Director of Lawyering Skills, Darren wants nothing more than to see students succeed in their legal pursuits. Had he not shared the competition on the LW638 Mooting page on Moodle, chances are I would not have participated. Do take advantage of the opportunities at Kent Law School while undergoing your legal studies and be kind to yourself every step of the way.’

Khaliq is President of the Kent International Law Society and Co-Chair of the Afro-Diasporic Legal Network at Kent. He is a Global Officer for Kent’s GOLD programme and is a Black Interns Matter Brand Ambassador for The Stephen James Partnership.