DTH: But it has to be everyone’s first time at some point, right? How do you bridge that gap? Is there a system of apprenticeship?
HR: There is. This year, we sort of substituted shadowing with a mock hearing, which everyone attended. We got our most experienced managing associates to play counsel roles and to play the role of the accused student. They went through questioning, and we even had a sort of open-court dialogue — which you don’t usually get to hear during a hearing. So all of the new counsels had to see that.
DTH: Did it cover a range of scenarios? Or was it just one mock hearing?
HR: It’s one mock hearing. So it’s true, it’s hard to learn about all the various kinds of cases from it. But it’s great for teaching the basics. A lot of statement-writing techniques are pretty common, the questioning pattern is always sort of the same, and the order of recesses and the official business questions are unchanged from case to case.
DTH: Other than the mock hearing, what kinds of training do your counsels go through?
HR: Well our system is quasi-adversarial, which means that if we assign an experienced counsel to a case and a less-experienced counsel, it doesn’t mean the experienced counsel is going to take advantage of the other counsel’s inexperience. In fact, he’s more likely to provide advice to the other counsel.
DTH: So it’s not like the real world, where one lawyer is trying to beat another lawyer?
HR: The whole idea is collaboration, even on a counsel level. It’s not me versus you; it’s not about tallying up wins. If I have a less experienced counsel prosecuting a case I’m defending, I’m very open from day one about the evidence I’m planning on submitting, the pattern of argumentation I’m going to use, and even telling them things they should be considering as they prepare their case. So that’s huge, and that’s a great way to bridge that gap.
And the ultimate equalizer, remember, is that the court can ask questions. So if a less-experienced counsel is working on a case and overlooks something the court might want to know before they make their judgment, the court can still get that information.
DTH: What do you say to a student who’s afraid of getting stuck with an inexperienced counsel?
HR: I think a student should have every confidence in their counsel based on training — based on the unique way our system is set up. And it’s also important to remember that, if they aren’t compatible with their assigned counsel, students have a right to choose a new one at any time.