Canadian Business College Students Win Paralegal Competition
Students from Canadian Business College (CBC) won the Paralegal Society of Ontario’s First Annual Student Moot Competition. Three of the college’s participants—Royce Calverley, Olivia Ho and Kristina Gavrilenko—also took first, second and third place, respectively, for the Distinguished Advocate Awards, with Calverley also taking home the Professionalism Award.
“The win demonstrates the strength of our Paralegal Program and the commitment of our students, faculty and staff,” says Jeffrey J. Nicholson, In-House Counsel and director of CBC’s Paralegal program.
“Our success at the event was largely the result of some outstanding students,” says Nicholson, “and I could not be more pleased with their performance or the results.”
A chance for students to practice their advocacy skills
Moots present students with an opportunity to practice their advocacy skills in a setting as true to life as possible.
Mooting gives students experience in arguing legal issues—in this case, the Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Bedford v. Canada—and CBC’s students rose to the challenge. Nicholson picked and coached the students, who went through four rounds of mooting on the first day, with semi-final and final rounds on the second day. The team of Calverley and Ho won the Moot Cup in the final round, beating out 11 other teams participating in the inaugural event.
“Moots present students with an opportunity to practice their advocacy skills in a setting as true to life as possible,” says Nicholson. “They are designed to make students think critically about issues of law, including the ability to identify and understand legal issues and interpret legislation.”
Students from each participating team submitted their written submissions and presented a 10-minute oral argument before a panel made up of law students, licensed paralegals, judges and lawyers.
Royce Caverley says the hard work and long hours involved in preparing for the competition would have been “miserable” had there not been much-needed breaks in the tension.
“We kept in near-constant contact by email and text,” he says. “My phone barely stopped buzzing for 3 days. Both of our teams got together one last time before the competition to run through the rough drafts of our speeches, have some pizza and have some laughs. I can’t stress how important that night was. It took the pressure off and gave us a chance to remember that this is supposed to be fun!”
Nicholson himself broke the tension when, right before each moot started, he would remind the students, “It’s a good day to die”—a Klingon expression spoken just before going into battle.
“It helped ease the tension,” says Nicholson, “and we never lost when I said it, so I had to say it every time.”
Classmates v Classmates
It wasn’t easy for the students to know that they might be competing directly against one another at the Moot, with Caverley and Olivia Ho on one team and classmates Kristina Gavrilenko and Christopher Zenko on another. Caverley insists the teams were cooperative and supportive, despite the possibility of having to debate one another.
“We read over each other’s arguments and incorporated pieces in order to be able to present them as a unified team argument,” he says. “None of us worried about having secret weapon arguments.”
Caverley and his fellow competitors credit Nicholson for giving his time and legal expertise to preparing them for the competition.
“There was a lot of material and very little time to prepare for the first annual moot competition,” says Gavrilenko. “We knew that it was going to be a challenging week of non-stop work. Jeffrey put his responsibilities as well as his personal life aside in order to make sure that he was available to us 24/7. It made it easier to devote eight hours a day to preparing, knowing that our coach was making sacrifices as much as we were.”
Instructors, teaching methods set students up for success
Instructors who are also practitioners are able to prepare students for the reality of practicing law.
The teams say Canadian Business College’s Paralegal program itself also set them—and all of their classmates—up for success. The program combines in-class theory with a 120-hour internship, during which students are matched with lawyers and paralegals who work in the student’s preferred area of law. Most importantly, the instructors, comprised of practicing lawyers, paralegals, immigration consultants and judges, give the students honest insight into the profession and encourage a deeper understanding of the law.
“Instructors who are also practitioners are able to prepare students for the reality of practicing law,” says Nicholson. “As I discovered upon graduating law school, there is a vast difference between studying the law and practicing the law.
“My instructors are all practicing lawyers, judges, paralegals and immigration consultants,” he continues. “When students take Advocacy, Evidence and Small Claims Court Practice, they are taught by a deputy-judge with 17 years of experience. When they take Criminal law, they are taught by a practicing criminal defence attorney. When they learn about Immigration law, they are learning from an Immigration Consultant who is also a paralegal. They have a vast reservoir of practical experience and knowledge to draw upon. I believe this sets us apart from other, similar programs.”
For the competitors, the school’s focused and experience-driven approach towards teaching the law helped them prepare, and ultimately win, the competition.
“We quickly discovered the importance of determining what information was vital to our arguments, and what was excessive,” says Olivia Ho. “We placed a far higher emphasis on understanding the issues and the law, rather than memorizing our oral arguments.”
Canadian Business College’s Paralegal diploma program is accredited by the Law Society of Upper Canada and is available at each of the school’s three campuses in Toronto, Scarborough and Mississauga. Graduates who complete the program are eligible to take the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Paralegal Licensing Exam. Between in-class time and a work practicum, students can be career-ready in only 52 weeks.