The jury is in for the UCCS Mock Trial Team. Students come together to compete in a wide range of tournaments, working with seasoned experts in the law and gaining courtroom and legal experience.
The mock trial team has been around for over five years, exposing students to the courtroom process and equipping them with critical thinking skills they can use in everyday life.
Alyson Pratkelis, a major in criminal justice and psychology, shared her experience as the president of the team. “I love all of the learning that is involved! I often get very invested in the different cases and fact patterns! I love being able to collaborate and work together with the team in person and in a court room! Closing arguments are my favorite part,” Pratkelis wrote via email.
According to the mock trial team website, students participate in imitation trials as attorneys, witnesses or both. “Every year, the club receives a fictitious case file from the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). The case alternates between a civil and a criminal case every year,” according to the website.
The ATMA sponsors tournaments where students compete. These tournaments can be within a school or against other schools at a national level, with local partners such as Colorado College and the United States Air Force Academy. No matter how many individuals participate in different teams, “everyone will have an opportunity to participate in formal and informal competitions,” according to the mock trial page.
Each team that participates in the mock trial is usually comprised of six to 10 members, though only 6 will participate at a time. Half of the team are attorneys, while the other half act as witnesses.
“It’s super helpful in terms of critical thinking and thinking on your feet,” Pratkelis said. “Mock trial is different than debate for a number of reasons but the main difference is that we put on an actual trial. That being said you never know what the other teams will bring to the table.”
Thinking fast and thinking critically are two important attributes that members of the mock trial team need.
“Being able to argue your point in an articulate and intelligent way rather than aggressive arguing is crucial to betting communication skills of students,” Pratkelis said.
“In a tournament, attorney and witness receives score from judges based on their performance. Our judges are real attorneys and judges (many active; many retired) with lots of courtroom experience,” according to the mock trial website. Working in a setting with individuals experienced in law benefits those who are seeking experience in law.
According to Pratkelis, engaging with peers in mock trials “allows students to do better in interview scenarios because you are better equipped with critical thinking skills and the ability to think critically under pressure.”
Being a part of the mock trial team also improves one’s public speaking abilities and is a valuable asset on a resume for those who wish to pursue a law career. According to the mock trial website, the club “focuses extensively on trial procedures, rules of evidence, and courtroom advocacy.”
Students may participate in the mock trial team to receive credit by enrolling in the contemporary trial advocacy course. If they wish to be a part of the club with no grades or course credit, they are also welcome.
No previous experience is required to participate in the mock trial team. For more information on the UCCS Mock Trial team and how to get involved, visit the website here.