I have written in the past about specific subjects within a mock trial, such as closing arguments, cross-examination, hearsay rules, etc. Let’s now take a more holistic look at the subject, and discuss how you tie all that into a victory on the day of the mock trial. Here is what you need to know.
- Team Consistency: Sometime when I watch mock trial teams compete it seems like the students practiced and prepared individually rather than as a team. All the lawyers and witnesses should be pursuing the same goal and the same theme of the case. E.g. is your defense to the assault charge mistaken identity or self-defense? Decide on one, and every question you ask of any witness, and the opening and closing should be focused on this goal.
- Sportsmanship: No judge wants to give the trophy to a team that comes across as cocky or is nasty to the other side. Lawyers act that way only on T.V. In real life, every trial lawyer know that jurors hate lawyers who are jerks. Good sportsmanship is even more important in mock trial as it is on the playing field. In sports the points decide the game. In mock trial, the scoring is subjective, and if you come across like a jerk you won’t win. Guaranteed.
- Objections: You have already probably figured out that you lose points if you miss out on proper objections, and score points by making a proper objection. Here is what you might not know. You can score points even if your objection is not sustained. So even if you make an objection and the judge says “overruled,” that isn’t a bad thing. You still get credit for showing your knowledge of the evidence rule. Ruling on an objection is often a close call for a judge.
- Clothing and Dress: Not everyone has to be dressed like the lawyers on Law and Order. However, everyone should make some effort. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can go to the thrift store. Guys, it is important to have your mom come with you and to make sure the clothing fits properly. (Not too baggy). Sometimes an oxford shirt with a tie will work. For witnesses, you are allowed to dress for the part: if you are a detective or an expert witness, wear a tie. But if you are a lay witness you can dress more like what those witnesses would were in their day -to-day lives. If your witness role is a patrol officer, you can usually order a cheap police costume off of Amazon for about $25.00.
- Timing. One of the ways students often stumble in a mock trial is to lose track of the time requirements. Practice competing using a clock. Once you start your cross-examination, it is easy to get tunnel vision and lose track of how much time you have used. It is ok for teammates to whisper or to slip a note to a lawyer who has exceeded his or her time allocation.
- Have Fun: Your mock trial will go better if you relax a little bit. No, you don’t represent a real client who will go to prison for life if you mess up. So get some sleep, do you best, and be prepared to roll with the punches a little. No matter how hard you prepare, you will always struggle a little bit and be thrown off. Like Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. No matter how the trial goes, take a breath and use it as a learning experience.
What do you think makes a winning mock trial team? What have I left out? What has worked for you? Leave me a comment below!