2Ls Win Regional ABA Client Counseling Competition

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Client Counseling Teams
Tres Ricks, Carolina Poma, Prof. O.J. Salinas, Vinita Tandon and Ariel Smallwood.
UNC School of Law students learn there’s more to skillful lawyering than knowledge of legal issues and technicalities.

Carolina Law students who participated in the American Bar Association’s Region 4 Client Counseling Competition in February learned the importance—and challenges—of building client relationships through establishing trust, listening attentively and communicating clearly.

UNC students gave convincing performances.

At the event at North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, UNC 2Ls Caroline Poma and Vinita Tandon won the regional championship, and 2Ls Ariel Smallwood and Tres Ricks placed third. This is the third straight year that both UNC client counseling teams advanced to the semifinals of the regional competition. This is also the second time in the last three years that UNC won the regional championship. Poma and Tandon advance to the national competition in Texas in April.

For Tandon, the most valuable part of the experience was the collaboration and teamwork involved. Students practiced daily with coach and clinical associate law professor O.J. Salinas and 3L team members. The 2L team alternates, Taylor Glenn and Chidi Madu, acted as clients during practice interviews.

Poma and Tandon didn’t know each other before practices began. “We learned to play off one another’s strengths really well. That helped us stand out and served us well during the competition,” Tandon says.

The competition’s focus area this year was criminal law and criminal procedure. Students, acting as lawyers, were judged based on their abilities to build client trust, to state back to the client his or her thoughts during the interview, to identify initial legal issues, and other criteria.

For Ricks, one challenge was approaching client interactions broadly.

"Uncovering various legal issues and possible defenses and then presenting those to the client in an empathetic way can be a difficult balancing act,” he says.

Tandon’s takeaways will strengthen her skills.

“My experience in the competition will be extremely beneficial as I move forward in my career, as relationship-building and communication are key skills for success in the legal profession.”

-February 26, 2016

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