Mock Trial is an activity where undergraduate students assume the roles of attorneys and witnesses in a case and simulate a trial. It is a class at UAB under JS434 which is open to everyone, but team members know the activity as much more than a typical class. Each year, over six hundred schools register to compete in the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) regional and national tournaments. At those tournaments, students simulate trials against other schools over the course of a weekend. Attorneys and judges volunteer their time to come judge these competitions, and based on their scoring, individuals and schools receive awards for their performance. UAB students routinely win individual best witness and best attorney awards, and the team itself has won, among other things, three regional championships and one national tournament.
The Typical Year
In mid-August of each year, we receive a case packet from AMTA. While there are textbooks that we recommend, this is primarily where a mock trial team member will focus his or her attention. It is critical that the team learns the intricacies of the trial problem, just as a lawyer would need to know the intricacies of his or her case. After learning, analyzing, and preparing the case with the help of the team coaches, the UAB team splits into two “squads” (complete teams for the purposes of competition), team members each take on their attorney and/or witness role, and the two UAB squads try the case against each other each Sunday afternoon to prepare themselves for the rigors of competition.
Finally, after a complete case has been developed and practiced on both sides (prosecution/plaintiff and defense), the teams travel to compete in tournaments at other universities. UAB will attend invitational competitions in the fall and spring at various host universities. Usually, a team member should expect to attend two invitational competitions: two in the fall and one in the spring. An invitational competition, while not counting toward UAB’s official record, is a critical stepping stone to prepare the team for the next stage, official AMTA Regional and National Competitions. A team member should expect to attend one regional, an intermediate national-level competition (called “Opening Round Championship Series”), and the National Championship Tournament in mid-April.