Law students represented Canada in Client Consultation competition

Two Alberta mothers take on the challenges of studying law, win first ever Canadian Client Consultation competition and represent Canada at international law competition in Ireland.

Katherine Thompson - 28 May 2012

Two Alberta mothers take on the challenges of studying law, win first ever Canadian Client Consultation competition and represent Canada at international law competition in Ireland

Sherry Simons and Angela Keibel sat next to one another in the University of Alberta Faculty of Law's Employment Law class in the 2011 fall term. They bonded over the fact that they are both moms and trying to pursue this law school dream against all odds.

"I have two young children and live in Red Deer, Alberta where my husband (Kevin) is the Controller (Accountant) for an oilfield manufacturing business. Prior to coming to Law School, I worked in municipal government for several years, most recently with the City of Red Deer." Angela said. "Now, I come up to Edmonton each Monday for my 5pm class and then leave at 5 pm on Thursdays to go home to Red Deer." Angela grew up on a farm near Donalda, Alberta, and went to High School in Stettler, later marrying a local Stettler boy. "My husband is super-Dad while I am away," Angela said. "He is my rock and my biggest fan. I couldn't do any of this without him."

Sherry spent her early childhood growing up in the Cherhill and Darwell communities (west of Edmonton). "At the beginning of junior high, my family moved to an acreage outside of the Stony Plain/Spruce Grove communities, where I met my husband at Spruce Grove Composite High," Sherry said. "I recently graduated from law and it is my goal to work for a general practice firm that understands and allows for accommodation for family demands and commitments. My husband has been amazingly supportive throughout my law school experience. I credit my law school success to his support."
Near the end of the 2011 fall term, Sherry e-mailed Angela to ask if she would be her partner for the Client Consultation Competition at the University of Alberta. The Client Consultation Competition simulates a law office consultation in which law students, acting as attorneys, are presented with a client matter. They conduct an interview with a person playing the role of the client and then explain how they would proceed further in the hypothetical situation. Due to her limited time in Edmonton each week, Angela initially declined. However, Sherry was persistent and assured her that they would make practices work with Angela's limited schedule.

The weekend of the competition rolled around in early January 2012. Angela's husband and children decided to accompany her to Edmonton for a bit of a family trip. She assured them that she and Sherry would likely be knocked out in the first round and Angela even arranged for her husband to pick her up after the judging to go have lunch at Chuck E Cheese. However, to Angela and Sherry's great surprise, and delight, they were selected as the winners of the University of Alberta Client Consultation Competition, and were set to head to Ottawa in February for the first Canadian National Client Consultation Competition.

Teams from law schools from across Canada took part in the competition in the inaugural Canadian round. The University of Alberta team, of Sherry Simons and Angela Keibel, along with U of A Faculty of Law coach Lynn Parish, became the first winners of the new Canadian competition on February 25-26, 2012, in Ottawa. The team sailed past 11 other teams to take the title. A trophy was inscribed with their names and sent to the University of Alberta for the year. As title holders they were invited to compete in the Brown-Mosten International Client Consultation Competition in Dublin, Ireland, from April 18-21, 2012
In Ireland the competition was organized to a very high standard by the Law Society of Ireland. Twenty-two teams from all over the world took part in three days of competition and socialization and included teams from India, Germany, China, Turkey, USA, UK, Scotland and Sri Lanka. Team Canada finished after two preliminary rounds in joint second place overall, but alas did not proceed beyond the semi-final round. The winning team was from New Zealand.

Over the three days of competitions the interactions between the students were incredible. Friendships were formed; email and Facebook addresses exchanged and cultural differences in the way in which they will all ultimately practice law were explored. The Irish hosts entertained the visiting teams with an introduction to celidh dancing and a great farewell dinner at the Guinness Brewery. At the cultural evening Angela and Sherry, the University of Alberta team, entertained the group with their rendition of "I am Canadian" and all greatly enjoyed the presentations from other teams including a Bollywood dance routine, and a Nigerian drama.

The central focus was of course the competition and the skills demonstrated by all the students. Evaluation was from a panel of three judges who watched each team interview and counsel a client on a problem for which they have only had brief information beforehand. The increased opportunity for the students to grow and improve their skills was perhaps the real prize for competing.
"Sherry and I felt immense pride and patriotism to have represented Canada on an International stage," Angela Keibel said. "For me, it has put the law into a broader context. My plan is to practice law in Red Deer, Alberta - I have accepted a second summering position at the law firm of Chapman Riebeek in Red Deer, Alberta, with the promise of an articling position upon graduation in 2013 - so my Law School plan has been to take courses that will assist me in that Alberta focused practice. The most important thing I have learned is the need to approach clients armed with more than legal theories. These are people, with real problems. The client needs to feel heard and understood before that client can hear and understand anything that we have to say. Not only will this be important in my practice of law, but is important in all aspects of my life…including parenting my children."

The team is hugely grateful to the University of Alberta for supporting their participation in the competition. "I can report that Angela and Sherry were wonderful ambassadors for the University of Alberta's Faculty of Law, for Alberta and for Canada," reported coach Lynn Parish, "and performed to a very high standard."

Please find below media stories on the Client Consultation competition and the Faculty of Law's team of Angela Keibel and Sherry Simons:

Red Deer Advocate

Edmonton Journal

Canadian Lawyer Magazine