By Alayna Callanan ’14
The University of Rochester’s Mock Trial Team is gaining national notoriety, thanks to success of the YellowJacket Invitational, which brings teams from across the country to campus for a tournament that tests their competitive legal thinking and courtroom demeanor.
“The University of Rochester began hosting the YellowJacket Invitational under Peter Dierkes and since then the tournament has grown to include several nationally ranked Mock Trial teams,” says current President Shalin Nohria ’14.
The fourth annual event, held Nov. 2 and 3, attracted fourteen teams from universities all over the country, such as University of Michigan, George Washington, and Swarthmore, among others. In addition to collegiate teams, the event brought in parents, alumni, Rochester community members, and other students from around the country. Prestigious legal professionals from around the Rochester area judged the four rounds.
“It was a very successful tournament from the organization’s end,” said Jacob Bohannon ’14. “We had two judges, Paul Irving and Joanne Winslow, score the final round and the two schools competing were very impressed with their presence at the tournament.”
Mock Trial focuses on building and refining advocacy and public speaking skills via courtroom simulation. Members may act as a witness or an attorney. “People may specialize or do both, gaining a better understanding and enhancing overall performance,” says Bohannon. Although many members are pre-law, nearly half of members have no plans for a law related career. Nguyen Nguyen ’14 for example, is majoring in neuroscience and psychology but is involved as the club’s Tournament Director. Nohria is a REMS Scholar but his active involvement since freshman year has drawn him to consider law.
This year, mock trial participants studied a criminal case involving employees at an amusement park accused of theft. A nuanced and complicated case unravels as park owners are alleged to be operating a robbery scheme of their own. Using case materials provided by the American Mock Trial Association, the teams test their knowledge of courtroom procedures, mastery of case facts, and the ability to examine witnesses and deliver opening and closing remarks related to this hypothetical case during the weekend competition.
To prepare for tournaments, the teams prepared both prosecution and defense arguments and practiced trial techniques and strategies by acting out different courtroom proceedings, taking on the roles of witness, prosecution lawyer, and defense lawyer.
In addition to hosting a tournament, UR Mock Trial traveled to Columbia University’s Big Apple Invitational (CUBAIT). They were on track to win the tournament but lost to Harvard in the final round, knocking down their score to 5-2-1 (win-loss-tie). Overall the team placed sixth out of 22 against nationally ranked teams. Nohria won an outstanding attorney award upon receiving the highest ranking an attorney can receive and Jonathan Johnson ’14 received an outstanding witness award.
More recently, Mock Trial sent two teams to a tournament at the University of Pennsylvania. One of those teams finished in fifth place among a pool of 44 teams. With success like this in hand, many members of Mock Trial are on the inside track to rewarding careers in law.
Bohannon was quick to note that the success of the program isn’t just about the skills of the group, they also rely on funding from the Students’ Association and local law firm Nixon Peabody to offset the cost of participating in the tournaments.
For more information about Mock Trial, please contact Shalin Nohria at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Photo (Top): Loudon Blake ’17, Scott Trufan ’17, Izabel Yuovskiy ’17, Jenny Juehring ’17, Alice Gindin ’17, Jason Altabet ’17
In the Photo (Bottom): Gabriella Clemente ’16, Susannah Scheffler ’16, Deanna Thompson ’15 (Take 5), Loudon Blake ’17, Abigail Ritter ’16, Al Karabell ’14, Shalin Nohria ’14, Wil Dietz ’16. Paul Garbys ’15 (Take 5), Izabel Yurovskiy ’17, Scott Trufan ’17