LSAT Kung Fu Blog / Semester 2, Week 4: What I Know About Mock Trial

Semester 2, Week 4: What I Know About Mock Trial

Pros + Cons

Mmm. So stimulating.

So, sort of a “good news/bad news” kind of a week. My Mock Trial team did not succeed in our attempt to win the Regional competition. But I did learn a lot! I’m tempted to make a Pros and Cons chart and leave it at that, but it sort of feels like cheating. I mean, if you tell somebody you’re going to write a blog, you can’t make a chart and consider your duties in the matter to have been fully discharged. What I’m saying is, I’m trying to keep up my end of the bargain here (I think this matters to me because I feel like the sense of duty to each other is being lost. We owe each other something. At the very least, we owe each other to deal squarely. As it happens, I think we additionally owe each other the benefit of the doubt. People make mistakes; that’s almost the operational definition of a human, right? Let’s cut each other some slack. And while we’re on the subject, I think we owe each other at least as much kindness as we’d like to be treated with (GOLDEN RULE, DAVE. NOT ORIGINAL). We probably have some sort of sincerity duty: I mean, we should generally tell each other the truth. But not the whole truth all the time! (I don’t want to hear that you find my facial features offensive. You can keep that tidbit to yourself, thank you very much). We ought to be of service to one another. We ought to look after one another, at least so far as it doesn’t cost us anything (if my pant leg is tucked into my sock in the morning, tell me so I can fix it. If I fall on a patch of ice, don’t laugh at me (OK; don’t just laugh at me); help me up also). I don’t know how far I want to extend that duty, but can you imagine what this all (by which I mean us, our community, our home—the whole thing, all of it!) would be like if we all went out of our way, just a little bit, to extend this duty to each other? I can tell you it felt great—it felt like family—when L. (not his real name. Although, really, did you think I went to law school with a guy named L? Come on.) offered to switch randomly assigned defense/plaintiff positions on our upcoming memo, just because he knew I would prefer to be the plaintiff. And it was similarly edifying when A. (also not his real name. BECAUSE NOBODY IS NAMED A) texted me—without being asked!—to offer to send over his class notes after I missed a couple of days of class last week for illness and for Mock Trial (holy shit! Mock Trial! I came to write about Mock Trial, and I totally will. Just let me finish this paean to interpersonal duty real fast); it made me feel like we were in this thing together. And so I guess what I’m saying is that I submit that it would be better for all of us if we took seriously the notion that we are bound to each other and that we should act like it).* So that’s why I’m not doing a Pros and Cons chart.

*I was going for a record on parentheticals. I think I gave it the ol' college try, don't you?

One really good thing about Mock Trial is the massive volume of learning that you get by doing it. Like, I know that Federal Rule of Evidence 801 excludes hearsay from admission. That’s cool, right?

I also know that objections derive much of their power—maybe most of their power, which is a scary thought—from the authority of your voice as you make them. Really! Same for your answer to the objection. If the judge thinks you sound like you know what you’re talking about (or at least like you know more than opposing counsel), you’re likely to win the point. 

In Mock Trial, as in life, preparation is the secret weapon. The advocates that do well aren’t necessarily smarter or more talented than those that aren’t as successful; those who succeed typically just know the case file more thoroughly.

Conversely, lack of preparation is deadly. If you don’t know the file well, you’re likely to get clobbered by your better-prepared opponent.

The exception to both of the above is for people who are peculiarly talented at public speaking and extemporaneous thought (and notice that this observation dovetails nicely with the point about who wins objections). In my experience, preparation is the surefire way to win, but talent can bridge the preparation gap in some instances.

So if you want to win your Mock Trial competition, I think you will be successful if you do these five things:

  1. Learn your portion of the case file. Know it inside and out.
  2. Learn the following objections, and use them liberally:
      1. Relevance (say it like this: “Objection, your Honor. Relevance. The contents of the witness’s car have no bearing on the matter at hand”).
      2. Leading (when the Direct examiner asks a question that suggests the answer. If you say “Did you know the defendant was married?”, then you suggest that the defendant was in fact married, and I’ll object to that shit. Instead, you ask “Was the defendant married?”)
      3. Beyond the Scope of Direct (when the cross-examiner asks a question on a subject you never talked about during your Direct examination)
      4. Assumes Facts Not in Evidence (similar to a leading question; this question assumes facts that haven’t been entered into the record yet. If you say “Now, when the defendant ran the red light…” I’m going to use this objection, if you haven’t somehow demonstrated the red-light-running already).
      5. Speculation (if you ask “Why did the defendant follow you?” I’ll use this objection—nobody can know for sure what’s going on in someone else’s mind. If you ask this, you’re asking the witness to speculate about another party’s inner thoughts. That’s bad to do).
      6. (Those are the main five I used. They’re a good starting place! There are SO MANY more though).
  3. Know the rules on hearsay (801-on) and on relevance (401-on). Understand them.
  4. Get good at speaking in a conversational tone to multiple people at once. With training, you can become good at this. You don’t want to feel nervous the entire time you’re at trial. You also don’t want to sound like you’re reciting a script. This takes practice. You can do it.
  5. Get comfortable speaking to crowds. Take a public speaking course. Or an acting class. Get good at standing in front of people and still being able to think. Problems come for those who got good at number 4 above, but who didn’t get comfortable enough to think about what was going on around them.

That’s my takeaway from Mock Trial week. I hope you liked it better than a chart.

Hours for the week: Class = 7.5 / Study = 6 / Other = 12.5

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them below, or shoot me an email.

Be good to one another, for we need it now more than maybe ever,


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