San Mateo County Mock Trial

judge's gavel



Getting Ready

Preparing The Team

It is wise to keep in mind that Mock Trial is a voluntary activity for everyone: the students, teachers, and attorneys. It needs to be fun to keep everyone working. Initially, team members can be helped to distinguish between what television has taught them and what a real trial requires. Focusing on the evidence to support a theory of the case to prove the case is the path to success. On the Forms page is a PDF which helps students to develop a theory of the case. They then can pick and choose among the evidence for the facts that support their theory. It is a logical process like solving a geometric problem. They need also to understand alternative theories for the case, and be prepared to show why their theory is the most logical conclusion.

Knowing More Than One Role

Mock Trial is a team competition. Each member counts and when someone is unexpectedly absent, someone else will need to step in to fill the role. When team members are prepared in more than one role, a crisis becomes an opportunity to show your team's resourcefulness. In San Mateo County, however, you must be clear about SMCMT rule #1 which says that each team shall make a good faith effort to have 18 students participate in each round. Being prepared as an substitute when someone is absent is not the same thing as having someone double up in two roles.

Success in Mock Trial

It is worth noting that the successful teams in San Mateo County are those who have carefully studied the case book, and have spent many hours discussing the facts each witness can present as well as the possible difficulties in getting that information admitted to the trial. Knowing the case, having identified in team practice where there are likely to be objections, and considered alternative responses is excellent preparation. It is a lot harder to be tricked if your goals are clear and consequently you don’t lose focus when an opponent introduces unexpected and possibly irrelevant material. It’s easier to keep your cool when you are prepared, and that helps you to think clearly. The scoring attorneys and the judge, who after all are practicing lawyers, recognize what is taking place. They won’t say much about it in the courtroom, but they are encouraged to give higher scores to those who know the difference between what goes on in television shows and what goes on in a real courtroom. Your advisor and attorney coach may have much more to say about this.

Other Sources of Information on The Web

Googling other California county's Mock Trial website will give you some idea of how they have organized their county's competition. On the other hand, if you are looking for advice rather than schedules, forms, and last year's winner, Googling "Mock Trial tips" is the place to go. The people who think about how to improve Mock Trial performance and want to share what they have learned sometimes create their own websites. Often you will find a nugget here and there hidden among tons of text. It's worth reading on several different levels. For the student it may say things that they have heard before but haven't quite integrated into their own thinking. For attorneys it will not be new information, but it may be presented in such as way that they may begin to recall the distance between high school and law school. We ask a lot of sixteen and seventeen year old kids. Readiness, which is a problem that teachers must deal with every day of their professional career, is an important skill that the teacher brings to the Mock Trial team.
These Mock Trial blogs come from across the country. While the specific evidentiary rules in New York, Illinois, or any other state will vary from those in California the general concepts remain the same. With all of the websites that are available we think that the following are good examples worth your time: