Department of Political Science

Mock Trial Competition Team - more than just a club

Published on Jul 22, 2018

Photo of Mock Trial Competition Team

Students belonging to Auburn University’s Mock Trial Competition team meet every week to analyze, rehearse, memorize, and argue court cases written by the American Mock Trial Association. Months are spent meticulously pouring over even the slightest details of a single case. Members are expected to analyze these details and then create arguments for both the defense and the prosecution. They are assigned a position (attorney or witness) in a court case, and must convincingly relay their part during a mock trial. Those same students then analyze and “try” the pseudo-cases against other colleges and universities from around the country at competitions where they are judged on their performance. 

Debra Armstrong-Wright works as the Pre-Law Coordinator and is the advisor of Auburn’s Mock Trial Competition Team.  

“The mock trials act as a great way for students in the Pre-Law program to put some of what they’ve learned into practice. Courtroom etiquette, appropriate language, teamwork, learning to win, and even learning to lose are just some of the invaluable skills students take away from the experience,” Armstrong-Wright said. 

The team is in its tenth year and is now offering academic credit to its members for the first time. The team meets three times a week for a minimum of two hours at a time, and students are expected to do work in between to get ready for the meetings. 

The students have to form arguments based on the testimony of a group of witnesses of which only three can be called to the stand. To add to the pressure, dramatic changes to the case can occur at any moment. “One night at practice, we were getting ready for post-regionals when for some reason I decided to look at the AMTA (American Mock Trials Association) Website. I learned right then that a new witness had been added to the case. The entire case had changed, and we had less than a week to revise our work.”

With the amount of work and time asked of these students, it seems only right that the team be treated as more than just a club. The mock trial team will in fact function as a class, but students must be on the team before they are able to register for the course. The hope is that, with the university now offering academic credit, the team will be able to grow in the coming years and become even more competitive. Although housed in the College of Liberal Arts, Auburn’s Mock Trial Competition Team is interdisciplinary and welcomes those from other colleges to tryout. 

“You learn to negotiate with people who may not see a case the same way you do,” Armstrong-Wright says. “You could even liken it to a team sport in a lot of ways. A lot of the people who join are people who were part of their high school’s mock trial team and just couldn’t give it up. It’s addictive.” 
“We’re family here,” says Marissa Coleman, a current member of the mock-trial team. “When I joined the team, I could hardly speak in front of people at all. Now, I am much more comfortable with doing so and with being critiqued on it.” 

With the help of their teammates, the students are able to thrive in the intense atmosphere the mock trials provide which allows them to grow not only as future lawyers, but as people. There is also something to be said for having the opportunity to work and learn in an environment full of people who are passionate about the same thing you are. “And that’s the word,” says Armstrong-Wright. 

In addition to her roles as the Pre-Law Coordinator and Mock Trial Supervisor, Armstrong-Wright teaches classes on health law and organizes the annual Law School Fair. 

“We host representatives from several different Law Schools on Auburn’s campus and those representatives often arrange informative workshops for interested students. The topics of these workshops range from what law schools are looking for in potential candidates to how to write a personal (this is a term of art) statement,” Armstrong-Wright said.      

Armstrong-Wright is clearly passionate about helping the next generation of lawyers. Besides being involved with the mock trial team and having recruiters come from around the country to speak to students, she is also willing to answer any questions a student might have and is even organizing a free practice LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) over the summer. There is no doubt that both the Pre-Law Program and the mock trial team benefits tremendously from her involvement.

Written by Dillan Wright, a sophomore majoring in Professional and Public Writing and minoring in both Creative Writing and Philosophy and Religion.