Aspiring lawyers should consider participating in a mock trial in high school to begin preparing for their careers. To learn more about what mock trials are, read on.
The typical extracurriculars high school students participate in are school sports-teams, debate clubs, yearbook committee, part-time jobs at local fast food restaurants, and volunteer positions at hospitals, food banks, or shelters.
However, another highly valuable extracurricular students should consider participating in is mock trials. This activity is particularly useful for students interested in political or legal careers. If you’ve never heard of mock trials before or want more information on how to get involved in them, this guide has got you covered!
Let’s begin with the basics; what is mock trial in high school?
High school mock trials are essentially competitions held by organizations in which students compete to create the most compelling case in a mock court. The majority of high schools have mock trial clubs that students can join to begin competing. There are several levels to these competitions: local, state, and national.
The national level competitions are hosted and organized by the National Mock Trial Championship. In these competitions, teams of students representing the winning school in each state will be given a criminal or civil case to prepare for and present to the court.
Each team is given a booklet containing all the case information they’ll need to argue for the prosecution or defense of the accused.
Some colleges and universities, like Furman University, offer mock trial programs for national participants to receive enhanced training and education in advocacy and case preparation.
There are several steps involved in mock trials:
Cases are available for viewing and distribution several weeks before the first round of mock trials begin. Students must prepare for both sides of the case, as they will not know if they will be acting as the prosecution or the defense during the trial.
Part of this preparation will include delegating tasks to the members of your mock trial team. Each team is composed of between six and nine teammates, of which three will act as attorneys and three will act as witnesses during each round. If there is a seventh member, they will act as a timekeeper.
On the day of the trial, a coin toss will be used to determine which team will represent the defense and which will represent the prosecution, which is why it’s essential your team crafts comprehensive arguments for both sides!
Both sides will present their opening statements to the court before witnesses are brought to the stand. This statement should outline what they will be arguing, the evidence they will be using, and the witnesses they intend to call on.
Here, students’ articulation and persuasion will be assessed.
Each attorney will be responsible for the direct examination and cross-examination of a witness. You may only object to questions being asked of the witnesses you examine. There are only a few grounds of objection admissible in mock trial courts which teams must familiarize themselves with during their prep.
You will also be given the chance to re-examine your witness after the cross-examination is complete. During the testimonies the prosecution will also be expected to introduce evidence to the courtroom that can be objected by the opposing side. The defense may also introduce evidence to the courtroom, but it is not required.
After the witnesses have been thoroughly examined, each side will give their closing statements to summarize the key evidence presented and offer their final reasons for the judge to rule in their favor.
At the end of the trial the judging panel and presiding judge will determine which team had the stronger argument and score them. The precise scoring techniques will depend on the organization and level at which you are competing.
Now that you understand what a mock trial in high school consists of, you may be wondering if you should participate in one yourself. While these mock trials may seem intimidating, they have various benefits!
For one, regardless of if you want to join the legal field or not, they will develop key skills that can aid you in any career:
For students that are interested in becoming lawyers, specifically criminal lawyers, mock trials can provide you with a realistic understanding of court proceedings to help you confirm your career choice. If you plan on participating in higher level mock trials in college and moot courts in law school, preparing early will help you excel in these trials!
Lastly, having mock trial experience on your college application can help you stand out as an applicant. It will show you not only have great analytical thinking and communication skills, but that you have a clear drive to join the political or legal field.
This will not only be useful for your college resume but can be used to explain your dedication to becoming an attorney in your law school personal statement or interview.
You may also begin building your network by meeting amazing mentors that can help you throughout your legal career! If you’re an extraordinary participant you can also qualify for awards, scholarships, or judging positions, which will look great on your college and law school resume!
Below we’ve answered the most common questions about competing in a mock trial in high school.
The main skills students develop in mock trials are:
On a more technical level, students learn how to create compelling opening and closing arguments, how to interpret and analyze evidence to create a case, and how to accurately and appropriately examine witnesses!
They will also learn about permissible court objections and develop a high degree of technical knowledge on court procedure and etiquette.
Yes, mock trials are especially beneficial for students interested in pursuing legal careers as they’ll be expected to participate in moot trials throughout law school. High school mock trials can offer a good foundation to excel in these.
Yes, considering you develop skills that are transferable to any career and degree, participating in mock trials will look good on any college application. It also takes a high level of dedication and commitment to compete in these trials. Demonstrating these skills will make you a more attractive applicant.
Your high school should offer more information on how to compete in your state’s mock trials. You will first have to join your school’s team and then compete against other schools within your area before making it to the state level and finally the nationals.
Yes, mock trials are difficult largely because they’re unpredictable! Students must be able to think quickly to be able to make sound rebuttals and call objections. Additionally, because students can act as either the prosecution or defense, they must be able to present strong arguments for both sides.
Students must also memorize certain legal terms and proceedings, so they do not make any errors in the courtroom. These errors can cost them valuable points!
As we’ve established, mock trials in high school can serve as excellent didactic tools for aspiring lawyers to gain confidence and insight into courtroom proceedings and how to argue a case. On a more general note, these mock trials can also just help you become a more confident speaker, which is a skill everyone can benefit from!
Accordingly, you should consider adding this extracurricular to your college resume to not only wow the admissions committee but to help you excel throughout your post-secondary journey!