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Moot News: Team Manitoba takes 3rd place in national 2021 Sopinka Cup

March 27, 2021 — 

Congratulations to the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law Team of Amber Harms and Kyla Kavanagh who took third place in the Sopinka Cup March 19 – 20. The national advocacy competition faces off the top two teams from each of the four regional competitions from east to west. Robson Hall students are no strangers to visiting Ottawa for the Sopinka and to competing amongst the top eight advocacy teams in Canada. Even though this year had to be virtual, they still made it “there”.

Achieving third place was a long journey for Harms and Kavanaugh. After emerging from their second-year Advocacy class among its top students, they proved their respective strength last November coming in first (Harms) and second place (Kavanagh) among fellow Robson Hall students in the in-house Solomon Greenberg moot to select Robson Hall’s representatives for the western regional MacIntyre Cup.

Chantal Boutin, a Crown Attorney with Manitoba Prosecutions who coaches the advocacy team each year with The Honourable Judge Tim Killeen, reported in early February that Harms and Kavanagh finished second place in the MacIntyre, and as such would represent the West at the national Sopinka Cup. “Let me be the first to congratulate Amber “the Hammer” Harms and Kyla “the Lazer” Kavanagh as the second-place finishers at the MacIntyre Cup,” she said, quoting the descriptive nicknames the competition judges had bestowed on the teammates.

Harms also received an award for Best Cross Examination at the MacIntyre Cup. “I am overwhelmed with pride when I think about how far they have come and how they performed in this moot,” Boutin said. “They were flawless! They have made our school so very proud!”

After the Sopinka Cup, Boutin reported, “I am once again absolutely blown away by the fantastic oral advocacy performance of Amber Harms and Kyla Kavanagh,” she said.

This time, she added, the students had a challenge thrown at them to switch sides from the previous competition having to argue as defence counsel instead of prosecution, preparing within a tight three-week timeline. “Their defence faced some unanticipated adversity, in the form of … an affable but very forgetful witness, who inconveniently misplaced the memory of what his story was supposed to be,” Boutin explained of an issue that arose with one of the actors used for the event.

“Despite the hiccoughs that come with putting on a trial virtually, the hard work of the Sopinka Cup Committee and organizers from The Advocates’ Society made the process effortless for participants. Competing against brilliant students from across Canada was a welcome challenge, and one that I will remember fondly,” said Kavanagh.

“The journey from Advocacy class to the Solomon Greenberg, the MacIntyre, and finally to the Sopinka Cup has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in law school,” said Harms. “I’ve enjoyed learning how to run a trial and more specifically I’ve loved the unique and challenging transition from acting as Crown counsel to acting as Defense counsel.”

The team thanks the students who assisted them in their preparations, including Kelsey Thain, and Mario Mudri, who, according to Boutin, “have clearly eschewed a career in acting to pursue the law.”

The team also thanks Assistant Professor David Ireland and Maria Tepper, who supported and encouraged them throughout. “Without their assistance,” Boutin said, “Amber and Kyla could not have prepared so well. The teamwork and collegiality of the students and staff is a hallmark of what it means to be Robson Hall educated.” 

“Taking part in the Sopinka Cup was an incredibly rewarding experience, not only for the excitement of getting to participate at the national level in a novel way, but also for the months of preparation in the lead-up,” said Kavanagh. “It was an honour to have the support and encouragement of many students and faculty at Robson Hall throughout, as well as the invaluable input and advice of Chantal Boutin and The Honourable Justice Tim Killeen, whose dedicated and enthusiastic coaching made the time spent planning our case a highlight of each week.”

“Having co-counsel and coaches that are smart, supportive, and strategic has made all of the hours spent over Zoom both valuable and fun,” said Harms. “Robson Hall’s history of success in advocacy on a national scale is the direct result of the excellent coaching of The Honourable Justice Tim Killeen and Chantal Boutin and I’d like to thank them for preparing me to be an effective advocate and lawyer through this process.”

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