What is the difference between mock trial and moot court? Moot Court is an appellate competition where students argue before an appeals or supreme court. Mock Trial is a trial competition where students either act as attorneys or witness for the prosecution or defense.
What kind of commitment am I making if I join the team?
This depends on your aspirations. Competitions will usually take up a 1-2 days over the weekend in which we travel, compete, and return. As far as roles go, being an attorney will require the most time. Attorneys must be involved in every aspect of the case, and know it inside and out. Witnesses must be know their affidavits and portray their character in a realistic manner. Time Keepers are required to keep the time of all aspect of the case (Because we only have a certain amount of time total to try the case). Pending on your role within the team, and what part of the season we are in, a member can expect to spend 4-10 hours a week on Mock Trial (it may sound like a lot, but once you get involved, you see that it isn’t). and obviously those numbers will rely upon how much responsibility you wish to take with the team.
For Moot Court, joining the team is a very serious commitment. Reviewing cases and learning how to perfect your argument and knowledge of the issues involved in the case, takes a lot of research, time, and collaboration. Practices will generally be once a week although the closer it gets to competition time, the more practices there will be. The case generally comes out in early May, regionals are in November, and nationals are in January.
How will this team benefit me in the long run?
Joining the Moot Court or the Mock Trial team is an invaluable experience for any student. If you are at all interested in the practice of law, especially if you plan to go to law school, this experience will give you an upper hand on any of the other students. To name some of the benefits, it helps improve communication skills, enhances critical thinking abilities under duress, improves legal research, enhances self-confidence and poise, and for those students performing well enough to enjoy one or more tournament trophies, enhances acceptance rates into law school, and it looks amazing on a resume. It is fun and rewarding. It is challenging, and it is good experience for law school and a legal career. It will teach you how to think, speak, and write in a clearer and more precise manner, you will meet and work with other goal oriented students, and network with a variety of important people in the legal, academic, and political community.
In addition, undergraduate moot court also prepares students for both the law school classroom and law school moot court. American legal education relies principally upon the Socratic method of instruction: law students are required to arise upon demand and recite the facts of a case or to expound upon a legal doctrine while under the duress of probing inquiries of the law faculty. And in addition, most, if not all, law schools require moot court.
How is College Mock Trial different from High School Mock Trial?
High school mock trial programs do not allow teams to choose which witnesses they call. Case-writers create six witnesses and specify which three are for the defense and which three are for the plaintiff/prosecution. In college, the case-writers develop somewhere around ten different witnesses and allow each side to choose which three of these witnesses they will call in the minutes before a trial. With this set-up, opposing sides can strategize to “steal” the witnesses that their competitor may want. For this reason, every team needs extensive back-up plans and a lot of improvisational ability. Thinking on your feet is one of the best parts of mock trial.
How people perform as witnesses also differs from high school to college. Many high school programs have regulations that prohibit witnesses from using costumes or accents. In college, not only do these regulations not exist, but it is almost a requirement that every witness transform into a character that the judge will remember and like. Accents, costumes, and one-liners make witnesses entertaining and fun to play.
The way roles are divided in college mock trial can differ from high school as well. In high school, there can often be as many as six lawyers on a side, with each one receiving a single role. In college trials, there are only three attorneys per side, so each attorney must perform a direct and cross-examination, and two attorneys give statements.