Old Collegian News: Life at Harvard Law School
Monday, 5 February 2018
2017 was a significant year for Old Collegian and law grad Andrew Grant (Marsden, 2007-11). A member of the University of Auckland team selected to represent New Zealand at the 2017 Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition in Washington DC, Andrew was awarded Best Speaker, an incredible achievement. The University of Auckland team was also awarded Best Overall Applicant Side.
Andrew spoke to the KCOCA about mooting and life at Harvard.
Can you describe the experience of being awarded Best Oralist, and being part of the successful University of Auckland team at the 2017 Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition?
The Jessup runs for about two weeks in Washington DC and involves law students who are about to go into legal practice from roughly the top 140 law schools in the world. It simulates a court proceeding (‘a moot court’) before the International Court of Justice. The competition tests oral advocacy skills and the law student's ability to understand complex points of law and present them persuasively before a court. The judges are typically lawyers and domestic judges from all over the world.
The University of Auckland Law School went as New Zealand's representative in 2017. It was a really special two weeks and something I feel incredibly privileged to have been part of. It gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with over 600 fellow law students and lawyers from over 70 countries, many of whom were about to begin working at places like the United Nations, the European Commission on Human Rights and the Supreme Courts of the United States and United Kingdom. Testing my ability as an advocate against people of that calibre was so valuable, and it's something I'd encourage anybody interested in a career in the law to aspire to.
Being recognised as the Best Oralist at the end of the competition was obviously a very special moment and something I'll look back on really fondly. To do so well in the face of such experienced competition was a proud moment.
What kind of preparation goes into competing in a mooting competition? How much time did you spend in training?
Preparation for a moot is basically a diluted version of preparation for a case in court - the purpose of a moot court is to allow senior law students to prepare for and practice arguing cases so they can do the real thing effectively once they've left law school. So the process is made as similar as possible.
For the Jessup, we spent a lot of time researching and developing an understanding of the large amount of law relevant to an international legal dispute. We then wrote written submissions for the court which took a lot of time and refinement, and finally practiced how we would present the argument to the court from the Bar on the day.
The whole process took about four months before we flew to DC.
When did you discover your skill in mooting?
I certainly developed a liking for public speaking and oral argument while I was at King's. I got involved in debating and, although I wasn't particularly good at it, was part of the team that won the house debating cup in Year 13. From there I went to the University of Auckland Law School, and realised that I really did enjoy the study of the law and wanted to be a litigator, so mooting was the natural way to develop all of those skills.
You’re now at Harvard Law School. What or who prompted your decision to apply to study there?
I'd never considered it an option until my last year at Auckland, at which point a number of professors and friends pointed out that a Master’s degree from a top overseas law school was a really valuable thing to have as a New Zealand lawyer, and that I might have a chance of getting in. New Zealand legal education is really highly regarded overseas, and it became apparent to me that an Auckland LLB in combination with an LLM from a place like Harvard would put me in a really good position for my legal career going forward. So I took the plunge and applied.
How has your experience at Harvard been so far? Are there any particular highlights?
I've been particularly lucky while I've been here - this year is Harvard Law School's bicentennial so they've pulled out all the stops and made it a hugely memorable experience. The highlight so far has been the opportunities I've had to meet and hear from really inspiring people while they've been visiting Harvard - John Roberts (Chief Justice of the United States); Elena Kagan (Justice of the US Supreme Court); Christine LaGarde (Head of the IMF); Larry Summers (Former US Treasury Secretary) and Sally Yates (former US Attorney-General) stand out as particularly memorable speakers.
Harvard is a really fantastic place to study law. I think its reputation is entirely justified. I really enjoyed my time at Auckland, and now doing a Masters over here has really allowed me to focus in on the areas of law I'm interested in and think about them more deeply. It helps too that Harvard Law is so well resourced - no matter what area of law you want to focus on, there's likely to be a professor here who is the leader in that field.
Do you have any plans for when you complete your LLM? Would you like to return to New Zealand or will you work overseas?
I've accepted an offer from a law firm in New York City so I'll be practicing as a litigation lawyer in the US for the next little while. That being said, I was recently admitted to the New Zealand Bar and returning to New Zealand is certainly something I hope to do down the line.
Has the King’s Old Collegians’ network been helpful to you since leaving school?
Absolutely. I've been very lucky to have had a number of Old Collegians within the legal profession become mentors to me during my time at University and in practice, and I've found their guidance really valuable. It's also always nice to have the King's connection with Old Collegians who I run into in the US, which happens more than you'd think!
Was there anything in your King’s College education that you feel prepared you for further education or your chosen career?
I think the way that King's prepared me for life after high school has manifested itself in a lot of things I've done since. I think that a lot of the values King's instils - hard work, integrity and respect - are hugely important in the professional environment and in higher education. I also think I benefited from the rounded nature of my education when the time came to put myself out there and apply for Masters programmes and for jobs in really competitive markets. To a large extent, King's helped give me the confidence to do that.
Do you have an update on your life after King’s? Get in touch with the KCOCA today: e-mail email@example.com