Bar Practice Course 73
The 73rd Bar Practice Course was held at the Bar Association of Queensland (‘the Association’) from 26 August — 3 October 2019. The Course was attended by 18 Queensland practitioners and the Association also supported the training of 2 officers from Papua New Guinea (‘PNG’).
The six (6) week course comprising of oral advocacy, written advocacy, alternate dispute resolution and ethics would not be possible without the support of the 129 presenters from the profession who generously volunteer their time. For BPC73 this included 17 members of the Judiciary, 3 retired members of the Judiciary, 26 Queen’s Counsel, 72 Junior Barristers, 1 Solicitor, 3 Librarians, 6 Financial Partners and 87 witnesses including 12 Police Officers.
Pupil Jane Menzies has provided her reflections of the course and first few months at the private bar:
Form, storm, norm, perform. Bruce Tuckman proposed these four stages of group development in 1965. The cohort of BPC73 stuck fairly true to the model.
The forming stage saw us come together in late August, a rabble of 20 solicitors with vastly different backgrounds from across the State and Papua New Guinea. A brief round of introductions on day one was swiftly overtaken by a wealth of information delivered in the first two weeks by sitting and retired Justices, leading senior and junior counsel, baby barristers, and partners of prominent law firms. The generosity of so many busy people to give up their time for us was remarkable. It was a fine demonstration of the collegiality of the Bar and the broader profession.
Of “collegiality”, I can say that it was the most frequently uttered expression on the course, together with “persuasion” and “case theory”. We heard some other memorable quotes. “What you have here, my dear, is a dog.” “Read the Act stupid!” “Write your advice knowing that you may be asked to make it come true.” And, from one presenter, opening words to the effect that “You shouldn’t expect much because in the toilet just now I realised that I’d put my underpants on backwards.”
Many of these we heard during the storming stage, as the pupils started to figure one another out. Personalities emerged and we identified the serial question-askers, the prolific note-takers, the social convenors, the funny guy, the talkers, and the quiet and unassuming types. With that social manoeuvring going on, we were also coping with the onslaught of feedback on our written and oral advocacy. There were so many pitfalls for us to collectively fall into:
- objecting during an opponent’s closing submissions;
- telling a witness they were only to answer “yes” or “no”;
- not knowing what SPER is;
- gruffly asking, as the fourth question in cross-examination, “Do you have a memory problem?”; and
- instinctively thanking a witness for “that” concession during cross-examination.
Fortunately the course provided a safe place in which to make, and learn from, these mistakes.
We flew into the norming stage as the intensity of the mock hearings ramped up. Fortunately a senior silk assured us that “99% of cases that come in at the Bar, anyone can do well with hard work.” That gave us hope. We continued to absorb the finer points of a barrister’s artistry, including the importance of using size 14 Calibri font for speaking notes. I was surprised to hear that there was research to support the point. A highlight of the course during week 5 was the video review session of our mock 4 hearing. While excruciating to watch your own performance played back, the insights that the exercise provided were invaluable.
Finally we performed. The advocacy intensive weekend and mock 6 were true to label: intense. As had been the case throughout the course, busy members of the profession dedicated weekends and evenings to guide us with patience and good humour. There was a real sense of achievement upon finishing the final mock and receiving our certificates of completion. We had survived (with only one broken bone to show for our efforts)!
So we have now moved into the mourning stage with the formative six weeks of our new careers behind us. It was a whirlwind ride that will hold us all in good stead for what life brings next, both in terms of the lessons learned and the friendships formed. We extend our thanks to all those who presented and otherwise contributed to the course and, particularly, to Brooke and Gail for guiding us all through it. And now we have some of our own “war stories” to share with the cohort of BPC74…
Pictured BPC73 Pupils (left to right)
Benedict Coyne, Brooke Gibson (Manager, Advocacy Training & Development), Elizabeth Kave, Kelly Goodwin, Cecelia Bernardin, Alexander McKinnon, Carmen De Marco, Heath Berghofer, Alice Nasu, Christopher Hughes, Ambyr Cousen, Samantha Amos, Joshua Sproule, Jane Menzies, Allana Davie, Josie Salzman, Joshua Morris, Damien Freeman, Yuzo Araki, Gail Cowen (Advocacy Training & Development Administrator), Shane MacDonald, Ronald Yuen.