There is an invisible line in litigation.
As a lawyer, there is a moment when you stand up from the counsel table, turn to the judge or jury and start your opening statement. You’ve crossed the invisible line; it’s your first trial.
Many litigators come to their first trial with little formal training on how to conduct the critical elements of a trial. Osgoode’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Workshop (ITAW) gives novice and experienced litigators alike the chance to learn from some of the best litigators in the industry in a controlled environment. It is like having your first trial without even getting your robes out.
While there is a lecture component, the majority of the time at ITAW is spent actually conducting openings, direct examinations, cross examinations and closings. Each of these is videotaped, and students receive direct feedback from their instructors and from guest litigators.
But wait; there is more.
The final day of the course is a mock trial in front of a real judge and a volunteer jury. At the end of the trial, both the judge and jury provide feedback to the litigators. In a real trial, the jury is prevented by law from speaking about the case, and you will never receive this kind of feedback from a judge.
There are three sets of lawyers who will benefit from ITAW.
First: seasoned lawyers looking to hone their craft can try new approaches and re-affirm their first principles for oral advocacy. Ours is a trade with only one objective measure on our skills; winning at trial. Anything that can help you present your client’s case more effectively is time and money well spent.
Second: lawyers with no trial experience can gain the experience they need without the risks and consequences associated with the court room. Before I was a lawyer, I was an Army Officer. When I was training my soldiers, my goal was to give them the experience of battle before they found themselves in one. It dramatically raised their chances of success. The idea of taking a case to trial can be very daunting for someone with no trial experience. ITAW takes you a step closer to becoming a battle-hardened litigator.
Third: articling students, young lawyers and aspiring lawyers can volunteer to sit on the jury panel for the mock trial. As a lawyer, you will never get the chance to see a trial from the other side of the jury box, and at ITAW you will see a complete trial in 4 hours. Sitting at the counsel table, you have gone over your case with a fine toothed comb, and you know every fact; you probably know your opponent’s case as well as they do. You will get a new appreciation for what works and what doesn’t work in the courtroom when you know nothing about the case, and a lawyer is trying to persuade you of their cause.
I attended ITAW after already running multiple arbitrations, and having conducted trials for the Ministry of Transportation, but with no Superior Court trial work. Although I had already presented cases for clients, I found the techniques taught during that week to be invaluable. ITAW also provided an opportunity to speak to litigators from different areas of law and gain new perspective on the problems I face in my practice. I changed the way I approached some aspects of trial work, and I confirmed my approach to others. It was a memorable week and I even made a few new friends and contacts.
I can’t recommend Osgoode’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Workshop enough. From veteran litigator to newly called lawyers, ITAW is an experience that can’t be found outside of a real trial. When the moment comes to cross that line, you will be in the best position to do your clients justice.
TOM HUGHES’ practice concentrates on insurance defence, including tort, accident benefits and disputes between insurers. Tom has appeared before the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Justice, the Ontario Provincial Offences Court, and Small Claims Court.
Tom earned his J.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the bar in 2009. Prior to law school, Tom was an army officer with deployments in Bosnia and Afghanistan in combat roles and is a recipient of the Canadian Forces Decoration, the South West Asia Campaign Star, The NATO Medal and the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal.