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School of Law

Queen Mary Postgraduate Law Student organises Global Advocacy Exercise

Lauren Holmes, a full-time postgraduate student enrolled on the Laws LLM programme and a Student Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) Student Leader, shares her experience of organising a mock Plea in Mitigation advocacy exercise.

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What inspired you to set up the Plea in Mitigation exercise?

Many placements and internships were either postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, so I decided to set up the Plea in Mitigation exercise to give students a meaningful alternative to these opportunities. During the lockdown I participated in two mock Bail Application exercises, and the feedback I received from the practitioners who judged them was invaluable. I wanted other students to benefit in the same way, and so I chose to organise the Plea in Mitigation exercise because it was something different but equally valuable. Given that most Chambers set advocacy exercises as part of their recruitment process, these opportunities are great practice.

What did the Plea in Mitigation exercise involve?

In practice, once the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty to a criminal charge, they must be sentenced. The defence will deliver a Plea in Mitigation to try and persuade the judge to pass the lowest possible sentence. The main purpose of this exercise was to provide students and aspiring barristers like myself with an opportunity to improve their advocacy skills. Five days before taking part, the advocates received materials including witness statements, a pre-sentence report, and the relevant sentencing guidelines for the offence. They then had to prepare and deliver a 5 to 10-minute Plea in Mitigation, which was judged by a practitioner. The advocates then received feedback on their performance.

With the assistance of 11 barristers and trainees who offered to judge, I was able to host 9 sessions in total. This has meant that 36 students were able to take part, and a further 15-20 were able to observe.

Who could take part?

I advertised this opportunity on LinkedIn to all students and aspiring barristers: within three hours, more than 50 people had expressed an interest in either taking part or observing. The advocates were all undergraduates, BPTC students and paralegals. Some were from different jurisdictions across Europe and Asia, so there has been global engagement.

What have you enjoyed most about organising this advocacy exercise?

It has been great to see how supportive the legal profession is toward students. As well as providing invaluable feedback, the practitioners were all willing to share their wealth of experience and answer questions from those who took part. I have also made lasting connections with both practitioners and students.

Describe your experience as an SSLC Student Leader at Queen Mary

I joined the SSLC this year because I wanted to make a positive contribution to the student experience at Queen Mary. As a Student Leader I have voiced the concerns of my fellow students, and I provided feedback on the recent exams and online teaching resources. I have enjoyed my time as a Student Leader, and I have learned a lot from this experience.

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