Law Students Trained in the Practical Side of Their Future Profession

Polokwane-based Unisa law students recently experienced insights into what handling a court case means for legal practitioners. This was done through the 2022 Inter-Regional Moot Court Competition training that took place in Unisa’s North Eastern Region.

This yearly initiative of the Unisa Law Clinic exposes law students to the practical side of the legal profession.  The training is designed to equip students with skills in trial advocacy, court etiquette, public speaking, legal research, presentation, and legal drafting skills.  This year’s team of training instructors comprised of Professor Angelo Dube and Advocate Lentumetse Padi, both from Unisa’s Department of Public, Constitutional and International Law, and Sipho Matshie from the Unisa Law Clinic.

The Moot Court Competition began with a cohort of sixteen student participants who are in their third and fourth year of studies for an LLB degree at Unisa.  After receiving instructions from Dube and his team, the participants were separated into legal teams for the applicants and the respondents.  The student participants were then given a set of facts to apply what they had learned from the team of instructors.

Following this, the student participants presented their arguments before the team of instructors in numerous rounds, with each round providing the student participants with feedback on areas for improvement.   The cohort was then reduced to eight members after the first elimination round.

The second phase of training was insightful and exciting.  Seeing the need for the student cohort to be exposed to the real court environment, Dube and his team approached the Limpopo Provincial Division of the High Court of South Africa for permission to use one of the courtrooms in the Polokwane High Court for the elimination round.

Kgothatso Moabelo, the secretary of the Judge President, assisted the training team in arranging all required resources.  Moabelo also connected the team to the Limpopo Society of Advocates, which was conducting its mock trials at the High Court as part of its 2022 pupillage program.  Following a discussion with the coordinators of the society’s pupillage program, an area of collaboration was identified, leading to the society inviting Unisa students to attend and observe the mock trials.

Thus, the training team dispensed with the normal mode of training and instead allowed student to learn through court observation, followed by a question-and-answer interaction with the coordinators of the 2022 pupillage program.

This intervention was a resounding success among the student cohort, some of whom had never experienced the court environment beyond the public gallery, nor interacted with legal counsel.

The Society further extended an invitation to have two student participants from Unisa’s cohort present arguments against two of the pupils from society who were undergoing training.  Although met with a warm and vibrant welcome, this arrangement unfortunately did not materialise due to time constraints, as the next elimination round of the Unisa Moot Court Competition was set for the next day.

The training team resumed with the mode of training.  After presenting thought-provoking and well-reasoned arguments before the team of instructors, the cohort was further reduced to three members through the second elimination round, with an additional member on standby in the event that any candidate was unable to participate further.  These candidates are to represent Unisa’s Polokwane Campus at the Unisa Moot Court finals in Pretoria later this year.

The training team acknowledges the support and camaraderie of Advocate Cindy Marais, Advocate Lesetja Nkoana, Advocate Mahapa Thipe and Advocate Benedict Moshoeu, all from the Limpopo Society of Advocates.  This collective of advocates oversaw the mock trials of the pupillage program, with Marais and Nkoana presiding over the society’s mock trials and answering many of the student cohort’s questions.

This collective of advocates was extremely helpful and invited Unisa to collaborate more in the future, especially given the open distance learning character of our university.  Our students will benefit immensely from such collaborations, and from the real-life interactions with practitioners and judges in the field.

The training team further acknowledges the support of Limpopo Judge President Ephraim Makgoba and his secretary, Kgothatso Moabelo.  Their efforts have left an indelible positive impact on the career aspirations of the student cohort.

Source: Unisa

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