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Student mock court paves path into profession
The UCD Sutherland School of law mock trial

14 Feb 2023 / education Print

UCD student mock court paves a path into profession

External wall art at UCD’s Belfield campus proclaims: 'This is where your world opens up', writes William Fry senior associate Clodagh Ruigrok.

Over the course of an early-February weekend, William Fry LLP sponsored the annual UCD Mock Trial – 16 'counsellors', five rounds, two days, one conflict.

Mock trial, in contrast to mooting, is less legal application or research, and more advocacy mixed with theatrics.

In teams of two, this year’s participants prepared both defence and prosecution arguments on behalf of their (fictitious) client, in the most convincing manner possible.

Acting as judge

As a senior associate at William Fry LLP, and a UCD alumna, I acted as a judge through the rounds of the trial, hearing each side's case and ruling on objections, ultimately scoring the teams for progression to the next stage.

They gathered points for strong advocacy, and convincing closing statements; lost them for any drop in courtroom decorum, or a misguided opposition to an opposing counsellor's line of questioning. For 45 minutes at a time, they each made their best plea to the court.

After five rounds, in a hard-fought final, two second-year Law with Social Justice students – Niamh McKnight and Shóna Fitzpatrick – ultimately took home the trophy.

I watched these young students spend their precious weekend actively pursuing a voluntary activity, dressed in suits and studying well-prepared notes.


And I reflected on how much possibility lay before them, and how very far they would go in this world.

The law students were grabbing this opportunity with both hands, gaining invaluable experience that would sharpen their skills, build their confidence, and make them stand out to future employers.

These students were going the extra mile, and that will only ever stand to them.

Some of these mock counsellors may one day find themselves battling it out for real in courtrooms across this land, or others. But many may not.

My former UCD Law classmates have gone on to become barristers and solicitors, but also auditors and tax advisers. Some are now working in marketing or hedge-fund management.

They have taken their talents to the UN, to translation, and to human-rights causes. One has presented an RTE children's show.

Likely, these alumni will never need to convince a judge or jury that their client was either guilty of, or a victim to, an assault under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, as the law students did at UCD’s mock trial event.

Rules of evidence

They may never rely on the rules of evidence in an open courtroom, or challenge opposing counsel on grounds of hearsay.

But, without question, they will need the skills learned in this mock courtroom – public speaking, critical thinking and teamwork.

In the decade-plus since I roamed the Belfield grounds, I have soldiered through the infamous FE1s, qualified as a solicitor, and now practise in a specialty of which I hadn’t even heard as a student.

I now work with a firm, William Fry, which in 2013 gave its name to a lecture theatre at the newly-completed UCD Sutherland School of Law. Our favourite lecturer, Rossa Fanning SC, has become Attorney General.

I married the man who held my cap at graduation.

I felt the weight of change as I spoke to eager but quizzical faces of the good old draughty days in Roebuck Castle, and the race between classes from the Quinn Business School.

The Sutherland law students have no reason to visit the castle now, or to even know where it stands. Time moves on. But still, the brightest of young minds lit up these halls, preparing for their real lives to start. I was impressed with the proactivity, vigour and fight of this zealous group.

Enthusiastic presentations

I was entertained by their interpretation of law and facts, their enthusiastic presentations and by colourful witnesses, who might one day find themselves nominated for Oscars, such were their performances.

Mostly, I was inspired by the next generation coming through, and by all that lay ahead of them.

We can confidently put our trust in them, to serve us well in this grand and regal legal profession, to which we have all dedicated so much of our lives.

Clodagh Ruigrok
Clodagh Ruigrok
Clodagh Ruigrok is a senior funds associate at William Fry LLP