Competitive Mock Trials: Tips from a Judge

Competitive Mock Trials: Tips from a Judge

Articles, Blog , , , , , , , , 7 Comments


I think there’s this indefinable quality
really of what makes a good litigator and it’s the little ‘pizzazz’. It’s a level of comfort and ability to
speak spontaneously. And sound interesting And so when you see it you
just you just recognize it. Know your material and work with your
material. But don’t just stick to that. If you practice just the art of
cross-examination on anything or making us an opening making a closing and
different facts completely not just the facts that are in front of you, I think you’ll be better prepared when you come to do this particular moot. Because it’s a skill set. Lawyers will do this. Before, I always did as a lawyer in preparing a case. Before I would argue the case, I
would think up everything I thought my opponent might possibly say and prepare
an argument that I would advance. I would do that, whether the opponent had
raised that argument already or not because you don’t know what’s going to
happen in the heat of the moment in the courtroom an argument just pops out.
Sometimes it’s the judge of that asks you this this point even though your
opponent hasn’t raised it. So you need to be prepared. That’s not in your notes. You haven’t got your scripted answer to that. But
you’ve thought ahead what things can come up. You’re prepared to give an
answer. So the worst thing that can happen is a question is asked, either
from the bench or something is raised by a witness that you didn’t anticipate or
another council says something and all you can do is say is”uh”. Because it’s not something you’ve thought about. You need to be able to be flexible. You could rehearse the whole thing, memorize it, deliver it. Reading is the
worst. Somebody just has it there and don’t even look up and they don’t make
eye contact. They’re just reading from a script. That’s really the worst. Second
worst is you’ve memorized it and you do look you watch, you look at the
judges but it still sounds like you’re you’re doing a rehearsed piece like as
if you’re in a performance like a play. The best are those students who know
their material, have notes they they know where they’re going to go but they
don’t stick to it. They are adaptable. They sound natural. They’re able to weave in things that
have just happened. Those will be the best students. It’s a difficult question to
just answer off the top, which teams standout. Often, it’s the ones who can
simply roll with the punches. I think the mistake that a lot of teens make is
almost over preparing. You need to really know your material. You need to
know the facts and be completely conversant with all of the detail. But
when it comes time to be asking questions or cross-examining and in
particular making your closing statement, if it sounds rehearsed, it sounds artificial. And so the students that tend to do the best are the ones who don’t stick to a prepared script. And are adaptable. So sometimes that’s because
they get to be adaptable because something happens and they have to roll
with it. Other times it’s because they’re just naturally that way. So I
guess if there’s some advice I could give to teachers and coaches, it’s not
to spend all of your time rehearsing the examination and cross-examination of
this particular case, but getting used to the art of examination and cross-examination and making argument in a courtroom. In every kind of way, not
just in on these facts, but just generally. The mock trial is an artificial environment
and there are certain rules. And the part of the rules is they’re supposed to
stick to their actual story and not make up facts. So, I’m not for a moment,
suggesting that witnesses ought to go off script and start saying things that’s not part of that fact situation they’ve been given. But, that said, in the real world you never know what’s going to come out of a witness’s mouth.
Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone through the evidence with that witness. How many
times you’ve asked the same questions over and over. Put them in the witness box ask them the same question, they give you completely different answer. You need to be able to go with that. And likewise if somebody’s
cross-examining and they’re taking the witness in a
direction witnessed hadn’t anticipated, sometimes something is going to come out and good cross examiner will jump on that. And that’s good. That advances
your case and produced that person room to show skills that, if the
witness hadn’t strayed, they might never get to show. So it’s quirky that way. Sometimes
it’s just fluky how one counsel in a case can all of the sudden have a moment
because of something inadvertent. Something that a witness let slip or something like that. So sometimes, even from one time they’ve argued the case to another the team can do remarkably different things because of
what the other side did. I think the most difficult part of the
moot is the closing. so it’s important to pick the person from your team who’s going to be the most creative on her feet or his feet. That closing is
something you can have an idea about before you deliver it, but it should
never be rehearsed and it’s always very very problematic if the person delivers
the closing that doesn’t reflect what just happened but it looks like to cookie-cutter. They wrote it and they rehearsed it and they delivered it and it has no bearing or doesn’t reflect any variance that might have come up
during that particular moot. So that’s sometimes a real stumbling block for a team. I think judges are looking, basically for the same kind of thing. An ability to deal with facts, being logical, be persuasive, think on your feet, make an
articulate argument. Those are all the skills that we’re looking at. It’s kind of,
it’s an odd experience for a judge in a way because we’re not used to judging
performance. Normally, we set aside whether the lawyer is doing a particularly good job and we go to the heart of the matter, which is the facts and the evidence. When we’re judging a moot, for doing the opposite. It doesn’t matter what we think is the
correct legal argument or whether the case has been proven or not proven
beyond a reasonable doubt. We’re only looking at the performance of the lawyers. It’s kind of an alien thing for us to be doing but I think we’re all pretty much on side in
terms of who’s been most effective.

7 thoughts on “Competitive Mock Trials: Tips from a Judge

  • Mekdes Hilete Post author

    Thank you so much. I am going to do a closing argument for my team in the mock trial. I am really nervous but I think I can get through it. Thank you for your great tips and suggestion, it helped a lot.

  • GreysAnatomy4LIFE Post author

    Thanks as well because I have to defend someone who looks really fishy in my mock trial.

  • Jeremiah Jung Post author

    i am doing 2 direct and 2 cross for my mock trial
    its my first mock trial ever and i have an important role so im nervous
    im glad this video was here because i would have taken the script to the competition

  • ReubenZ Post author

    Very informative! This is amazing!

  • Napstablook UT Post author

    I was so scared for my mock trial competition tomorrow, but now I feel a little better. Iā€™m a witness in this case. My character looked like they did something very wrong, but yet I still have to find a way to make myself look better. THaNks.

  • Fresco The clown king Post author

    dang it I'm the judge in mine so this didn't help an awful lot, but was still very well made

  • duchess leo tarot and magic Post author

    You are so amazing thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *