My First Mock Trial – A 2L Perspective

Mock Trial

Please welcome back our 2L guest writer, Shirlene Armstrong, to discuss her first mock trial experience. She discusses everything from the preparation through the actual trial, and tells us what she learned.

As a 2L, I have the opportunity to participate in “professional experience” activities for credit, extracurriculars. These include (but are not limited to) moot court, mock trial, law review, journal, and/or contract drafting. Since high school, I always wanted to do mock trial but unfortunately never attended a school that had a program. Thus, I was really excited to have an opportunity to join the team. I tried out for mock trial at the end of my 1L year and was fortunate to receive a spot on the team. As such, my first trial experience was in the first semester of my 2L year during our in-house competition.

Mock Trial

In general, mock trial is a program designed to simulate an actual courtroom experience. In short, a mock trial. At my law school, all new members must first participate in the in-house competition but can try out for the national team at the end of the semester. This year, there were 32 new students or “junior members,” each broken into teams of two. The in-house competition has two regular trials (one you are plaintiff/prosecution; the other you are defense), semi-finals, and finals. The trials are usually based on a former national team problem. You get the problem with all the information and exhibits, have to prepare your case, then you perform a trial. For our competition, we had preliminary matters, motions in limine, opening statements, 2 direct examinations, 2 cross examinations, and closings. You also have to follow the proper rules of evidence while admitting, objections are heard, and you are the attorney.

Workshops

As 2/3 Ls, many of us had never had any real trial or even formal debate experience. Fortunately, my program had some workshops. We had to attend 3 full-day workshops before the semester began, and we received our problem afterwards. The pre-semester days focused on teaching us the mechanisms of a trial, the rules of evidence, and time to practice/try out techniques. The other two days were focused on refining our skills and answering questions about our problem. These workshops really helped me not only feel comfortable at my trial, but also allowed me to understand the importance of practice and preparation for a case. Although attorneys seem like amazing linguists who can persuade even the most disinterested group, they have only received their charm and power of captivity through practice and experience.

Preparation and Practice

Shocking to no one, preparing for a trial (real or not) takes a lot of work. In addition to actually reading and trying to understand the problem, you have to strategize how you are going to argue your case. My partner and I had several strategy meetings, attempting to cover our bases and (hopefully) win our case. We also needed to actually prepare our case, meaning we needed to write our opening and closing, decide what motions to bring and exhibits to admit, and choose what questions we needed to ask each witness. After all that preparation, we needed to practice, practice, practice. In order to become comfortable with something, you must work tirelessly with it. I practiced my questions, closing, and possible objections so much, I hardly slept the entire week. In addition to my own preparation, I needed to find and prepare witnesses. Fortunately, my loving boyfriend decided to volunteer to be my witness. This helped ease my worries, since witnesses can make or break your case. I coached him on what to say, how to say it, what to do if he forgot something, and that he needed to embody the witness. My weeks of preparation came to an end and the real show began.

Show Time

Finally, it was my time to shine. All I needed to do was survive this trial and make it through without failing. Despite my preparation and excitement, I was still relatively nervous. However, I was prepared, knew my case, and was ready for a much needed beer. Our trial was held in an actual courtroom in front of an actual attorney (presiding as judge). We had gotten through the preliminary matters and openings, and it was onto our witnesses. Both of our witnesses did wonderfully, and we conveyed almost all of the points we were trying to make. Our crosses were also successful – I was even able to back the expert into a corner. Now, time for my close. I was definitely nervous because I didn’t prepare a full close ahead of time because you don’t know what evidence will get in. I was worried I would forget something or mistake the law. Fortunately, I played my role as a prosecuting attorney well, giving an impassioned final speech to the jurors (well the box at least).

An Invigorating Experience

Although I lost sleep, was stressed for weeks, and spent far too much time thinking about this problem, I loved my experience. Mock trial has been something I have always wanted to do and was really excited about the experience. Actually preparing and performing a trial, however, was a bit nerve-wracking. Although mock trial is based off made-up facts and people, they are still similar to real trials, you need to personify the character you are playing and exude confidence. All attorneys take on a persona. As an advocate, they fight for their client’s interests even though the dispute is not their own. Mock trial helped me understand that even if there is no “real” person to represent, attorneys have a very important role, and you must embrace it to be successful.


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About Shirlene Armstrong

Shirlene Armstrong is a first-year law student at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She received her undergraduate education at Grand Valley State University, graduating with her B.A. in Political Science with honors. Shirlene enjoys providing advice and guidance to all those in need and is very excited to begin her law school and legal career. Her dream is to become a litigator and one day run for judgeship.

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