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Everything You Need to Know About Mock Trial

If you are thinking about becoming a lawyer, enjoy public speaking, are good at communicating, or simply want to join a fun, litigious activity, Mock Trial is an activity you should consider. Mock Trial allows high school students from all over the country to come together and simulate a civic or criminal trial, with witnesses, plaintiffs, and everything in between.


Mock Trial is a great opportunity for students looking to learn more about the legal system and gain some great debate and public speaking experience. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Mock Trial so that you can enter your school’s high school Mock Trial team with some key knowledge under your belt.


What is Mock Trial?


At a basic level, Mock Trial is more or less exactly as it sounds. While there are Mock Trial competitions available at the elementary, college, and law school level, the high school version of this competition involves two teams acting out a civil or criminal trial and arguing either the prosecution or the defense side of a case. The trial is observed by judges, who will take a vote on which side had the more compelling argument. Usually, high school Mock Trial competitions involve more than one round, where the winning teams keep competing until there is one winning team left.


Each state’s Mock Trial Association selects one case for each team to compete with throughout the entire year. They supply this case to the team in the form of case booklet, which contains all of the information that the team may use to build their argument. This information includes all pertinent details of the case, including witness statements, pre-trial stipulations, exhibits, and more. No team may use any outside sources except for the case booklet when preparing and making their arguments.


Before the competition, students will form teams of a few students, and students will assign themselves specific roles in the trial like trial attorneys, witnesses, and pre-trial attorneys. They must also assign a bailiff and a timekeeper. Together, the team must prepare a strong argument for both the prosecution and defense side. Which side they actually argue during the competition will be decided at the competition itself.


During the actual competition, each Mock Trial is highly structured. Certain parts of the trial must be adhered to like the Opening Statements, Direct Examinations, Cross Examinations, and Closing statements, and each of these sections is timed. The time limits for each section are as follows:


  • Opening Statement: 5 minutes
  • Direct and Redirect Examination: 25 minutes
  • Cross and Recross Examination: 25 minutes
  • Pre-Closing Preparation: 2 minutes
  • Closing Argument: 9 minutes
  • Rebuttal (prosecution only): remaining time before the end of the trial.


Time limits may vary per state, and the timekeeper is responsible for keeping track of time. The only time the clock stops is for an objection.


At any point during the trial, an “attorney” may raise an objection to any proceeding that goes against the Rules of Evidence, as presented in the case booklet. The judge may then choose to overrule it, sustain it, or ask opposing counsel to defend their objected act. Since there is no time limit on objections, these battles could technically go on for hours before the judge finally makes a call.


As you can probably tell, this is intense and structured competition. Students often prepare for Mock Trial competitions months in advance, and yet they will still need to improvise and be quick thinkers for certain parts of the competition like the cross-examination. Thus, Mock Trial is great at developing hard memorization skills, improvisation techniques, and general comfort with public speaking. There is a lot to be learned here but a lot of hard work involved as well.


Who Should Join Mock Trial?


While the students who join Mock Trial tend to be law-school or political-science-oriented students with a knack for argumentation and public speaking, those are not the only students who would benefit and/or be good at Mock Trial. In fact, there is no hard and fast rule as to who should join Mock Trial and who shouldn’t. Schools who have developed teams may have their own selection process for who gets to compete, but in general, anyone can try it.


So if you have a genuine interest in learning what it is like to be in a courtroom setting, form intelligent and persuasive arguments, work with a team, and develop great public speaking skills, you should absolutely try it.


You should also give Mock Trial a try if you are thinking that you want to pursue a related subject in college and beyond. For instance, if you are thinking that you might want to pursue law school, go into politics, or even pursue any other type of humanities subject, Mock Trial may certainly be worth your while.

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What Are The Benefits of Joining Mock Trial?


Mock Trial is one of those activities that allow you to develop multiple skills at once, all of which will be helpful for you in college and beyond. By participating in Mock Trial competitions, you will have the opportunity to learn how to work as a team, creating compelling and persuasive arguments, think on your feet and improvise, and much more.


Moreover, you will also gain lots of hard skills that could be applicable to a career in legal studies, the law, or political science. After all, Mock Trial is meant to closely resemble an actual courtroom situation, and the judges are sometimes people with experience in these areas.


Finally, it’s important to note that Mock Trial, unlike many other high school clubs, has a college and law school equivalent. So if you like Mock Trial in high school, you have the opportunity to continue to pursue it in college and beyond!


For More Information


If you’re convinced that Mock Trial is the activity for you, we at CollegeVine have some resources that can help. For instance, we just released an Ultimate Guide to Objections in Mock Trial that could surely help you out.


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!