Competitive Moot Program

2013 Moot Review

The University of Alberta Faculty of Law would like to congratulate Natasha Edgar (2L) and Avril Fisher (2L) on winning the 2013 ‘Mathews, Dinsdale and Clark LLP Canadian Labour Arbitration Competition’


(l-r) Natasha Edgar (2L) and Avril Fisher (2L)(l-r) Avril Fisher (2L) and Natasha Edgar (2L)

The Mathews, Dinsdale and Clark LLP Canadian Labour Arbitration Competition takes place between eight two-person teams from law schools across Canada. This year, Natasha Edgar (2L) and Avril Fisher (2L) trained and took part in mock sessions, with coaches John Carpenter and David Williams, and U of A Faculty of Law student coaches Andrew Tarver (3L) and Adam Norget (3L), in preparation for the competition.

Natasha and Avril (along with coach John Carpenter and student coaches Andrew Tarver and Adam Norget) travelled to Toronto, on the weekend of January 26-27, 2013, to appear at the premises of the Ontario Labour Relations Board to moot before three person panels made up of seasoned arbitrators and labour lawyers. The team presented twice, once for labour and once for management, and as such saw two panels of three 'arbitrators' at the competition. They presented on behalf of the Union in front of Randi Hammer Abramsky (Ontario labour arbitrator), Stephen Krashinsky (partner with union firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP in Toronto) and Ryan Anderson (with management firm Mathews, Dinsdale & Clark host of the competition and practicing in their Vancouver office) in the morning moot. The morning was billed as a Battle of Alberta law schools as they met the University of Calgary. In the afternoon they presented on behalf of the Employer in front of Harry Freedman (Vice-Chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board), Susan Ursel (partner at union firm Ursel Phillips Fellows Hopkinson LLP) and B. Richard Baldwin (partner at Mathews, Dinsdale & Clark). Opposite them was the University of British Columbia.

The Morning Panel praised the passion and style of the University of Alberta's advocacy suggesting that they had given the panel a different point of view that led them to re-think the matter before them. When arguing on behalf of the Employer the Afternoon Panel suggested that their presentation was simply ‘great’. Natasha and Avril chose to argue on behalf of the Union in the final where the University of Toronto was as a result handed the Employer’s side. The Panel consisted of Elizabeth MacPherson, Chair, Canada Industrial Relations Board, The Honourable Justice Michael McKelvey, Ontarior Superior court of Justice and Bernie Fishbein, Chair, Ontario Labour Relations Board. The Panel expressed their admiration for the poise and passion of both teams, characterizing the difference between the two as but a ‘hairs breath’ none the less awarding the National prize to the University of Alberta Team.

The U of A Faculty of Law’s participation in this competition is made possible by a generous donation from Chivers Carpenter Lawyers. We would particularly like to thank note the assistance of the Student Coaches Andrew Tarver and Adam Norget.

John and David of the Chivers firm wish to highlight the contributions of three well known Alberta Arbitrators who sat as Chairs of the practice panels including Andrew C.L. Sims, Q.C. former Chair of the Alberta Labour Relations Board, Phyllis Smith Q.C. of Emery Jamieson LLP and Lyle Kanee, Vice-Chair of the Alberta Labour Relations Board and himself a former Coach of the U of A Moot Team. Management Counsel who volunteered their time to sit as Management Nominees included Craig W. Neuman Q.C. and Raylene Palichuck, both from Neuman Thompson and Teresa Haykowsky of McLennan Ross LLP. The practice panels were rounded out by Union Nominees who included Leanne Chahley of Blair Chahley, Gwen Gray Q.C., former Chair of the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board and Kristan McLeod, former Student Competitor in the Mathews Dinsdale Moot and now a partner at the Chivers firm. Michelle Westgeest, also a former competitor and now an Associate at Chivers sat in on the first run through of arguments by this years competitors. The support of these practitioners underscores the value that the legal community assigns to this program.

David and John were still giddy at the success of the U of A Law Team, “It is exciting to see students fully commit themselves to the competition, immerse themselves in the law surrounding labour arbitration and after weeks of gruelling research and advocacy preparation shine at a national level”. The Chivers Carpenter firm looks forward to sponsoring the University of Alberta’s participation again next year.

The University of Alberta Faculty of Law would like to thank the firm of Chivers Carpenter for generously contributing to and sponsoring this program.

(l-r) John Carpenter (coach), Avril Fisher, Natasha Edgar, Adam Norget (student coach), & Andrew Tarver (student coach)(l-r) John Carpenter (coach), Avril Fisher, Natasha Edgar, Adam Norget (student coach), & Andrew Tarver (student coach)


Interviews with the U of A Faculty of Law’s winners of the 2013 Mathews, Dinsdale and Clark LLP Canadian Labour Arbitration Moot, Natasha Edgar (2L) and Avril Fisher (2L):


Natasha Edgar (2L)


1. Can you please describe your moot competition experience (leading up the actual moot competition and the actual competition itself)?

We worked on the problem over the break with help from our coaches John Carpenter and David Williams of Chivers Carpenter. In January we practiced our arguments in front of a distinguished arbitration panel from the Edmonton area labour bar every Monday night. The panels grilled us with tough questions and gave us a lot of helpful feedback about how to develop our arguments. This competition had us moot as both the Union and the Employer so we had to learn the argument and the law on both sides of the issue.

The moot was held at the Ontario Labour Relations Board in Toronto. We mooted as the Union in the morning against the University of Calgary and as the Employer in the afternoon against UBC. We found out after dinner that night that we were in the final the next morning, facing U of T. After a ceremonial drink of champagne from the trophy with the U of T we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the finals.

In the morning we got to the Labour Board to see a packed room of spectators –the host firm and some of the eliminated teams watching the final. We represented the Union in the final – trying to save the job of one of our members as well as to prevent invasive locker searches. The highly esteemed panel of Bernard Fishbein, Chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, Elizabeth MacPherson, Chair of the Canada Industrial Relations Board, and Michael McKelvey, an Ontario Superior Court Justice asked some very tough questions in order to test our arguments. Avril and I stood our ground and although U of T were fierce competitors, the panel declared us the winners. I was shocked and delighted to hear that all of our hard work had paid off and we accepted the trophy with beaming smiles on our faces.


2.a. What will take away from your moot competition experience/ What did you learn from the experience?

This was a confirmation for me that I definitely want to be a litigator. The preparation was exhausting but it paid off when I knew the issues inside and out and could hold up to tough questioning by the panel. I also think I learned to enjoy myself more in stressful situations but Avril should take most of the credit for keeping me calm.


2.b. And how do you think you will use this learning experience in your future (education, career, etc. within law or outside law)?

A moot is a great way to practice your oral advocacy skills, as well as to get more comfortable speaking in front of incredibly intelligent people who know way more about the law than you may ever know. The best way to do that is to prepare. The only way to make a strong oral argument is to understand all the nooks and crannies of an argument and be able to bring a panel back to the key points you want to make. Learning how the law works outside of the classroom is invaluable because it’s definitely outside of the typical law student’s comfort zone.


3.a. Please describe the feeling of winning your moot competition?

It was incredible. I was shocked and delighted when they announced that we had won. It’s always gratifying to see your hard work pay off in a big way. I think the glow of winning will last for a while yet. This was definitely the most tiring and demanding experience of law school so far but also the most rewarding.


4. What advice would you offer to the next year's moot competition teams?

If you want to do a moot, go in with your eyes open and recognize that you’ll put more work, and in a concentrated fashion, to your moot than to any other course in law school. You need to be unafraid, or at least open to, criticism, and you need to be willing to learn from the mistakes you make. You’re going to make all sorts of mistakes not only in your presentation of the argument but also in the substance of the argument itself. We looked to the wisdom and support of our coaches John Carpenter and David Williams, as well as the student coaches Andrew Tarver and Adam Norget, were fabulous to work with. They were entirely focused on making sure we had the tools we needed to get the job done, and they worked with us to develop our own personal presentation styles. We could not have done all the work required and come out the winners without their help. Leaning on your coaches is necessary because they’ve done it before and are there to help with absolutely everything.

Also make sure you do this with someone you like and can work well with. You’re going to spend a lot of time together and most of it will be stressful, nerve-wracking, or both. I got incredibly lucky in that Avril was a great partner whose style of argument and preparation complimented my own, but was also a great person to have a glass of wine with when the work was over.



Avril Fisher (2L)


1. Can you please describe your moot competition experience (leading up the actual moot competition and the actual competition itself)?

This competition is generously sponsored and coached by two partners from Chivers Carpenter, a union-side labour firm in Edmonton, so the selection interviews and most meetings took place at their firm. We received the fact pattern back in October and did the bulk of our work and planning after winter exams, mainly over the break and throughout January. Because you have to present an argument for each side, and you only get to use 6 cases for each argument, there was a lot of research and trial and error in deciding how to present things and which cases to use. Every Monday in January we would have a practice arbitration in front of a panel consisting of one Union-side lawyer, one Management-side lawyer, and a Chair from the Alberta Labour Relations Board. While certainly nerve-wracking, the opportunity to present our arguments in front of such skilled and insightful lawyers, and then receiving their constructive critiques and input, made a huge difference in terms of honing our submissions and preparing us for the tough panels that we sat in front of during the actual competition.

After 3 of these practice arbitrations and tonnes of research and preparation, we headed to Toronto with John Carpenter, one of our coaches, and our two student coaches, Andrew Tarver and Adam Norget. On the first day of the competition, we mooted against the University of Calgary in the morning, presenting the Union argument, and the University of British Columbia in the afternoon, presenting the Management argument. We didn’t know how we had fared until later that evening at a dinner and reception held for all of the competitors, where it was announced that we were one of two finalists and would be competing against the University of Toronto the next morning. We hustled back to our hotel and prepared into the wee hours. Having won a coin toss, we chose to present our Union argument, and we did so on Sunday morning in front of a crowd of students and lawyers, and a very tough panel of a judge and two arbitrators, at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. It was a very close showdown, as U of T was very well-prepared and effective, but ultimately we were announced as the winners.


2.a. What will take away from your moot competition experience/ What did you learn from the experience?

With all respect to the academic method, this experience has taught me more about the realities of practice than any class ever could. While it was a lot of work and stress sandwiched into a few short weeks, I feel like I have gleaned a general understanding of the practice of labour law, and have learned some valuable lessons about legal research and advocacy in general—I’ve realized that a big part of advocacy is about working within the parameters of the facts and law that you have, and carefully and sincerely presenting the points that you want to make without overstatement or overzealousness.


2.b. And how do you think you will use this learning experience in your future (education, career, etc. within law or outside law)?

It has certainly boosted my interest in labour law and litigation, and, more generally, it helped me to begin finding my own style of advocacy and presentation.


3.a. Please describe the feeling of winning your moot competition?

I won’t lie, winning this competition felt fantastic. I still can’t believe it, really. When they announced that we were the winners, I felt happily relieved, both because it was all over, and because I really wanted to bring it home for our coaches, who were on pins and needles in the front row. I can say without hyperbole that our student coaches, Adam and Andrew, had a tremendous role to play in our success—having competed last year, they saw a variety of ways to make preparation better for their successors, and they committed themselves to that on every level. They gave hours and hours of their time, they provided invaluable feedback and support, and they did literally everything they could to help us. And John Carpenter and David Williams, our coaches, imparted so much practical feedback and general wisdom that we really wanted to make them proud. Also, I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate, so it felt awesome to look over at Natasha and feel like all of our hard work and stress had paid off.


4. What advice would you offer to the next year's moot competition teams?

Over-prepare, then go with the flow! Each team’s level of preparation and adaptability showed clearly on competition day.
We have big shoes to fill as next year’s student coaches, so hopefully we can follow Adam & Andrew’s lead and be there to help out throughout the process.

(l-r) Avril Fisher & Natasha Edgar (U of A Faculty of Law(l-r) Avril Fisher & Natasha Edgar (U of A Faculty of Law's winning Labour Arbitration competition team)


Interview with Andrew Tarver, U of A Faculty of Law Student Coach, Mathews, Dinsdale and Clark LLP Canadian Labour Arbitration Competition’

“I think the biggest thing for me was how well Avril and Natasha managed to connect to the emotionally compelling facts available to them and convey that to the panel. Labour law really provides an opportunity to make policy arguments with direct reference to basic employee and employer needs, and they were able to quickly pick up on that message from John and David and project it in a very genuine way. Beyond that, they had an answer for every question poised to them, and despite what could be difficult facts, managed to provide answers in a forceful yet respectful manner. They truly understand the need to connect with the panel and assure them of the correctness of their approach. At one point, after arguing the union side in Toronto, a management nominee commented that "they made him think of the issue in a very different light" and that he was "now pondering what was in his desk drawer". Overall, I'm just very proud of how far they came and how much work they put into it. The win was very well deserved.

Beyond that the firm, and John and David personally, are absolutely instrumental to the success of the team. The amount of time, expertise, and financial support contributed by John and David is overwhelming. They're great mentors for the team and I think help plant an itch for litigating in the students they work with. They always do a great job bringing in the local labour law bar for practice rounds as well, and I think the level of support from the practitioners here is something that sets University of Alberta's team apart from some of the other schools. The quality and enthusiasm of the panelists ensures that by the time the team hits Toronto for the competition, there isn't a question or hypothetical situation they haven't come across.”

~ Andrew Tarver, Student Coach