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UCalgary law students learn clients come first in advocacy

Packed house hears influential lawyer Marie Henein give 2017 Milvain Lecture in Advocacy
January 10, 2017
Marie Henein gave the 2017 Milvain Lecture to a full house Jan. 6 at the University of Calgary's law school. Photo by Adrian Shellard, for the Faculty of Law

Marie Henein gave the 2017 Milvain Lecture to a full house Jan. 6 at the University of Calgary's law school. Photo by Adrian Shellard, for the Faculty of Law

“It’s easy in this profession to become complacent, to work hard and just keep your head down. But it’s the lawyer’s role in the justice system that really matters, and you always need to remember why you started in this career.”

Sage advice from Marie Henein of Henein Hutchison LLP, the Faculty of Law’s 2017 Milvain Chair in Advocacy; advice given to a standing-room-only audience of law students Jan. 6 at the University of Calgary.

Advocacy is about what the lawyer does for the client

Henein spoke to law students on the importance of being a great advocate and lawyer, not for the lawyer’s benefit, but for the client’s benefit.

“Advocacy is not about you, it’s about what and why you do what you do for your client,” said Henein. “Being able to separate the two is what is key to winning your case…your performance matters in a very real way to your clients.”

Third-year law students take an immersive three-week advocacy course at the beginning of the winter term, where they learn key skills in written and oral advocacy, helping prepare them for real-world situations when they enter the legal profession.

Course unique to University of Calgary

The University of Calgary is the only law school in Canada to dedicate an entire block course during the academic year for every student to practise trial skills like examining and cross-examining witnesses, entering evidence, impeaching witnesses, and presenting opening and closing arguments.

“The best way to learn advocacy skills is to watch what others do,” said Henein. “You will never know when you will be ready to take on cases on your own, but don’t rush it.”

Lisa Silver, an instructor in the Faculty of Law, has organized the course for the past two years.

“Being able to bring in world-class lawyers to speak to students about putting their learnings into practice is so amazing,” says Silver. “It allows students to get real-world perspectives about the legal profession, and opens their eyes to all the opportunities available to them.”

Milvain Chair in Advocacy presents a lecture for students and legal community

In 1979 in honour of Chief Justice Val Milvain of the Supreme Court of Alberta, who retired at the beginning of that year, the Calgary Bar Association began funding a Visiting Chair in Advocacy at the law school. This enables the Faculty of Law to invite a leading counsel to the school each year to participate in its Trial Advocacy course and to present a special lecture to students and members of the practising and academic legal communities. The chair is named the Calgary Bar Association Milvain Visiting Chair in Advocacy as a tribute to the wisdom, humanity and sound guidance the chief justice exercised as a member of the bench.