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Paralegal Cup mock trials showcase student skill, competency

The Paralegal Cup showcases the skill and competency of paralegal students — and lawyers should take notice, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Darryl Singer.

The 2016 intercollegiate mooting competition on Nov. 19 and 20, 2016 is the only event of its kind in Ontario for paralegal students, providing an opportunity for teams to demonstrate their advocacy, research and writing skills.

“I firmly believe there’s a role for paralegals in our justice system and this competition makes it abundantly clear they are properly trained, hardworking and competent,” says Singer, principal of Singer Barristers Professional Corporation, who has participated on the judging panel every year since the event started in 2013.

“It also gives me hope for the future of the legal profession,” he says. “There’s an optimism about the Paralegal Cup that I just love.”

Mooting, a popular form of mock legal argumentation at law schools, involves two student teams identifying and addressing legal issues in a selected case. The teams present 10-minute oral submissions before a panel of judges.

Singer, who has developed a network with paralegals over the course of his career, says when he was asked to take part three years ago, he didn’t realize the quality of talent he would encounter.

“I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the students and the calibre of their arguments,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Singer says there is a general perception among lawyers that paralegals have “second rate” advocacy skills, but the event proves that is not true.

“The vast majority of these students participating in the Paralegal Cup will be just as good as any lawyer,” he says.

This year, the event is being hosted by the Law Society of Upper Canada in conjunction with Humber College at Osgoode Hall, another signal of the growing synergies between lawyers and paralegals, Singer says.

“I would invite any lawyer to watch a couple of these sessions,” says Singer, who sees the event as an opportunity to scope out talent and offer internships that often turn into full-time jobs.

Doug Taylor, member of the 2016 Paralegal Cup steering committee, says the competition strengthens students’ advocacy and critical thinking skills.

"It gives them the opportunity to argue complex pieces of law in a learning environment, while interacting with senior mentors from the legal community," Taylor tells AdvocateDaily.com. "The calibre of participating students is strong. Many put in long hours preparing for the event and capitalize on their chance to demonstrate their abilities in front of industry professionals.”

Paralegals are an integral part of Singer’s law firm, he says. Delegating work to paralegals is more cost-effective than hiring an associate lawyer, savings he can then pass on to his clients. For small claims court and other less-involved matters, it often makes greater business sense to have paralegals handling the case, he says.

From a broader perspective, Singer says a strong paralegal community opens access to justice for individuals and may prevent people from feeling as though their only option is self-representation.

“Paralegals can offer competent service in areas of law that are underserved by lawyers or too expensive for people to hire lawyers,” he says. “They provide that piece of the puzzle.”

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