Oxford, UEA students triumph at Herbies advocacy competition

It was a tie-break at the grand final of Herbert Smith’s annual student advocacy competition – with two would-be lawyers scooping £3,000 each.

The event, which was held on Monday (13 September), showcased the talents of six students who made it through to the final after submitting videos of themselves talking about this year’s topic: To what extent do equality laws oppress freedom of conscience and how should the courts reconcile competing rights?

University of East Anglia student Joseph Lack was celebrating after being crowned as one of the joint winners – despite never having done any advocacy before.

“It was really nerve wracking trying to remember my argument and answering questions at the same time. It was an amazing experience and I can’t believe I’ve won,” he said.

But his victory did not come easily as he was faced with a tough judging panel, which included High Court Judge Mrs Justice Rafferty, who presented the prizes, director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, chief executive of Stonewall Ben Summerskill, College of Law boss Nigel Savage and chairman of the inclusivity group at Herbert Smith Ian Gatt QC.

Gatt said: “What we were looking for was a well-balanced approach to both the arguments and the oral presentation plus the ability to deal effectively with a series of penetrating questions from the judges.”

The other winner of £3,000 prize money was Oxford University law student Robert Amey, who shared the top spot with Lack.

Meanwhile, third place went to Laura Collier, who had only given birth to a baby girl six weeks previously.

“I applied for the competition when I was pregnant and can’t believe I got to the final. It was amazing to be in front of such a great panel of judges, especially Shami Chakrabarti who is my legal idol,” explained Collier.

The advocacy competition was run in conjunction with The Times newspaper.