I had forgotten how busy school gets. Like, absolutely. I would have thought that working full-time would have prepared for me for classes and other jobs, but apparently not…Anyways, the point is, I have some time right now, so I will provide a few updates. To all new members of the team who are taking a look at this blog, welcome! If you’ve never done mock trial before, looking at previous posts is probably a good idea. If you have, they still might be useful, or just good reminders. We currently have 9 of our 12 case books handed out, with four more people having expressed interest. I would love to have the issue of too many team members, but it seems like right now, we have a really solid team. And I’m thrilled with all of the new members who have done high school mock trial: while there are noticeable differences from high school mock trial, college mock trial is, of course, building on the same skills. We have a meeting this Sunday, tentatively scheduled for 7-10 in Wilder Hall, and I can’t wait to get things started for real. On that note, let’s move on to…
Kaitlyn’s Mock Trial Tip of the Day/Vague Time Period
Since we have several members of the team moving from high school to college mock trial, I’m going to outline my experiences, shifting to a more competitive level of mock trial. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and got involved with mock trial in 7th grade. We had three tiers of competitive levels of mock trial: seventh and eighth grade competed in house, ninth and tenth grade went to a well-respected law college called Duquesne University to compete with local schools, and in eleventh and twelfth grade, you competed in statewide competitions, so I had been through several shifts in format. Every state has a different set up for statewide competition, but I think rules have to be at least somewhat uniform, for the national round to be compatible. Anyways, here are the things that I found the most surprising in the shift up to the college level.
1. Case Law:
In high school, objections were scripted entirely off of rules of evidence. Rules were memorized and recited to be able to respond effectively. College mock trial threw in a new twist: pseudo-historic cases that can be used to establish the evidentiary precedent that should allow or disallow pieces of evidence. These cases are short paragraphs detailing fake cases that deal with some of the issues that might come up in trial. They usually have counterparts where one side of an issue is supported, then refuted. They make the Battle of Objections that come up during trial slightly more debatable, and add a new level of knowledge. They are used much, much more than Rules of Evidence, and should be memorized extremely well, word for word.
2. Witness Interchangeability
In high school, we had two witnesses per side, and both of them had to be called. No exceptions, and you knew exactly what witness you’d get. College, you get three witnesses, which isn’t that big of a switch. However, there are 10 witnesses that could potentially be called, and several of them can be called by either side. It’s decided at trial who gets to call what witness, which means every witness needs to have a cross prepared for them, unless it is explicitly stated that only one side can call that witness. And, because we can’t always guarantee that we will get to direct examine our witnesses of choice, we need to prepare back up direct examinations. This results in a lot more work, and a lot more adaptation of closings and questioning strategies, but makes the trial more dynamic and a little more exciting.
In high school, the key to winning mock trial was to seem like you knew what you were doing by contrasting your professionalism with your opponent’s unpolish. The core concept of the “style contest” isn’t different so much as kicked up several notches. You don’t face “bad” teams in college mock trial like you do in high school; there are no teams with scripts written by their coaches, or anyone who doesn’t understand the rules of evidence. It’s much more competitive, and the key is to be as slick and smooth as humanly possible, especially in objections. When it comes down to it, the skill with which you make or respond to objections shows the judges exactly the stuff our team is made of.
In high school mock trial, we had a presiding judge and a jury full of lawyers and law students. This meant you could address the jury and the judge respectively when appropriate. In college mock trial, the people rating your team, presiding over the trial, and serving as the jury are the same people. I didn’t at first think that this would change much, but it completely changes the direction of the courtroom: you are always facing forward, towards the judge and the witness, and, by default, the jury. You have to learn a new set of direction to look and walk in order to be taken seriously.
There are many more small changes, like shorter affadavits and new courtroom rules, but the differences above were the ones I found most surprising, from my former experiences. However, they’re easy enough to adapt to, and can be used to our advantage in many cases.