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Bond duo crowned national champs in the courtroom

Bond University’s skill in the courtroom continues to draw accolades with a pair of law students beating all other Australian universities in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal mooting competition last week.

Jordan Byrnes, 21, and Katherine Mansted, 18, beat fellow national grand finalists from the University of NSW in the final of the AAT mooting competition in Sydney.

Acting on behalf of the Commonwealth, the pair convinced a tribunal panel – which included The Honourable Justice Garry Downes AM (President), Deputy President Julian Block and Member Stephen Frost – that a car importer, who disputed the payment of the luxury car surcharge on several imported Hummer vehicles, should indeed pay the Federal tax.

Last Thursday’s win in Sydney was the fourth major title Bond’s Law students have won in the past 12 months. In addition to the University’s landmark victory over world leaders Yale University at the International Criminal Law Moot Final in The Hague in March, Bond also took out the Law Council of Australia’s National Law Moot Competition in Hobart, and the Beijing Foreign Studies / Wan Hui Da Intellectual Property Law Moot Competition in Beijing (both late 2008).

Making last week’s AAT victory even more impressive, Jordan and Katherine developed their formidable partnership having only known each other for a few months. The team spent the past three months building a rapport, understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and spending countless late nights honing arguments and polishing submissions.

“There were some nights where we stayed up until 6am preparing for competition,’’ said Jordan, a former Benowa High student who has ambitions of becoming a barrister in administrative law.

“When you’re spending that much time around someone you learn a lot from them. And the competition allows you contact with some of the best minds in administrative law and its interpretation, which I found fascinating.

“There is a very competitive culture at Bond, especially in mooting, and that helped motivate us through those late night preparations.’’

Katherine, who had not studied administrative law before contesting the AAT competition, said the format of the moot was challenging.

“You have to be ready to answer questions at any given point with confidence and accuracy. Really, you want the judge to interrupt you and question your approach because that means you are engaging them in your presentation,’’ said Katherine, a former Somerset College student.

“Similar to Jordan, I’d like to eventually become a barrister in Constitutional or Administrative Law.’’

The aim of the AAT competition is to allow students to argue the details of government legislation as it pertains to realistic scenarios they may face as future legal professionals. The AAT typically deals with appeals to bureaucratic decisions such as unpaid tax, cancelled visas and compensation claims.

Professor Geraldine Mackenzie, Dean of Bond’s Law Faculty, said the Administrative Appeals Tribunal mooting competition gave students the opportunity to argue the points of law in a real-life environment.

“The topics they receive are hypothetical issues they could seriously be contesting when they embark on their legal careers,’’ said Professor Mackenzie.

“The organisers set up the competition so there’s enough ambiguity in the issue that the matter could go either way, depending on the persuasive argument of the competitors.

“As seen by our top results over the last few years, Bond takes its mooting endeavours very seriously. We regard it as an excellent way for students to test their knowledge of law and their skill of persuasion.’’

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