Law students Khun Sonita (centre right) and Sreng Nearirath (right) talk with a pretend client during the Client Counseling Competition, held at Sunway Hotel, Phnom Penh, on February 29. Sonita and Nearirath won the competition and will represent Cambodia at the International Client Counseling Competition in India April 2-6.
A Cham factory worker’s praying brings an assembly line to a
standstill, and gets him fired.
It wasn’t as dramatic as the butler in the pantry with the
candlestick, but Cambodia’s first client counseling competition had its share
of theatrics as aspiring lawyers and judges had 45 minutes to display their
mastery of Cambodian law and ability to establish rapport with clients.
One team from each of Cambodia’s five main law schools –
Royal University of Law and Economics, University of Cambodia, Pannasastra
University, Cambodian Mekong University and Build Bright University – competed
for the honor of national champions February 28-29 at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom
The fictional clients, played by actors, included a
trafficked woman and a factory manager facing a lawsuit by a worker he fired.
From the minutia of honorifics to the logistics of cost to
the heart of the matter – what happened and how can we fix it – the young
students tried the impress the judges, mostly lawyers based in Phnom Penh, with their social skills and knowledge of the
The competitors threw in dramatic pauses and sighs, and
delivered seemingly scripted lines. "Feel good about yourself. It’s not going
to be a problem, have a drink,” one of the lawyers told the factory manager
After the competition, the judges cautioned teams not to be
overly sanguine with their clients.
Cambodian Bar Association president Ky Tech and US
Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli presented trophies to contest winners Sreng
Nearirath and Khun Sonita, of the Royal University of Law and Economics. The
two will travel to Bangalore, India, April 2-6 to represent Cambodia at the
International Client Counseling Competition, in which over 20 countries are
expected to compete, including the US, England and India.
The legal contest was funded by the US Agency for
International Development (USAID) and jointly organized by the East-West
Management Institute as well as the American and Cambodia bar associations.
"Like any other course of study, the law can be exceedingly
boring if all the student does is learn from books and lectures,” said
Mussomeli, cautioning that "While the law is a wonderful invention, it can also
be very dangerous” since it can be used to oppress the "poor and weak.”